The U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) Warrior Games team joined more than 250 other wounded warriors from around the country and the United Kingdom for the 2013 Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, Colo., this week.
This year marks the fourth year for the Games, an Olympic-style event open to Armed Forces servicemembers who were injured while serving on active duty. The USSOCOM team is comprised of over 30 Special Operations athletes from across the U.S. Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps. The team is competing against athletes from all service branches including members of the United Kingdom's Armed Forces.
Opening ceremonies were held at the Olympic Training Center May 11 and included special guest of honor, Britain’s Prince Harry, who joined U.S. Navy Lt. Bradley Snyder and Olympic swimming champion Missy Franklin in lighting the Olympic flame.
Retired U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Alfredo De Los Santos served as torch bearer for the USSOCOM team.
Athletic competitions kicked off May 12 with cycling, wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball matches. Members of the USSOCOM team secured an unprecedented four medals in cycling events.
USSOCOM team member and retired U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Justin Gaertner brought home the Bronze medal in the men’s 10 kilometer handcycling event. U.S. Army Master Sgt. Mark Vomund secured the Silver medal in the 30 kilometer men’s open cycling event. Retired Sgt. Maj. Chris Self claimed the Gold medal in the 30 kilometer men’s disability cycling category, while U.S. Army Maj. Ivan Castro and Army Capt. Richard Kirby also won Gold in the mixed tandem cycling race.
It was the first cycling race ever for Vomund, who was joined by his wife and two sons at the Games.
A Green Beret and 24-year Army veteran with 10 deployments under his belt, Vomund was severely injured in an IED blast in 2010. A year later and in the midst of traumatic mental and physical recovery, he took up cycling. Vomund has since logged over 24,000 miles on his bike.
“For me, it’s not about winning medals, it’s about doing something that I haven’t done before – and becoming a more complete person in the process,” said Vomund. “Cycling has given me part of what I was, which also has given me self-worth and self-pride. It was fantastic for my kids to see me win. I gave it my all and that is what I was hoping to achieve.”
Throughout the week, USSOCOM Warrior Games athletes will compete in wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball, archery, swimming, track and field, and shooting. Each team will also compete for the Chairman’s Cup, awarded to the top overall performing team.
The Warrior Games were created in 2010 as an introduction to Paralympic sports for injured servicemembers and veterans. Disabilities range from traumatic brain injury to amputation and severe burn injuries. Events conclude with an awards ceremony and celebration May 16.
For more coverage of the USSOCOM Warrior Games team, visit the command’s Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/#!/ussocom?hc_location=stream.