Every military veteran who competes in the annual Warrior Games, a Paralympic-style competition being held this year in Chicago, has overcome devastating injuries and illness.
Come out to cheer them, if you can. They represent the best of us, and you will be inspired. The opening ceremonies, hosted by Jon Stewart and featuring entertainers Blake Shelton and Kelly Clarkson, are set for Friday at Soldier Field.
You will be cheering for more than these particular men and women, of course. You will be celebrating the human spirit. The Warrior Games, first organized by the Department of Defense in 2010, implicitly honor anybody — a friend, a relative, a neighbor or you — who has ever had to fight back from a setback in life.
This year, the Warrior Games will run through July 8 at Soldier Field, the United Center, the Museum Campus, McCormick Place, Lane Tech College Prep andthe University of Illinois at Chicago. Except for the opening ceremonies, admission is free.
“They’re all facing these big challenges, and to be able to come together and commiserate and know you’re not alone in this fight, there’s a lot of power in that,” said Navy Capt. Brent Breining, director of this year’s games, speaking of the athletes.
Former Navy Master at ArmsA.J. Mohammed, of Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, told us that just training for the Games helped him overcome agoraphobia. He had struggled with the condition, barely able to leave his home, after he was injured in combat near Iraq in 2004. Shrapnel torn through his eardrum, leaving him with massive hearing and vision loss. Doctors initially believed he wouldn’t walk again, but Mohammed, now 24, has regained use of his legs.
This year, Mohammed will compete in track and field, cycling and archery. He hopes to compete in cycling in the 2020 Paralympics.
The Warrior Games, he said, are “the greatest therapy anyone could have.”
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It’s only natural to want to cheer winners. But when it comes to the Warriors Games, Capt. Breining said, the true joy is in cheering for those who, win or lose, are “trying the hardest.”
In these divided times, that sounds like good therapy for everybody.
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