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Military

Warrior Games approaching fast

by Maj. Belinda Petersen
Air Force Personnel Center Public Affairs

4/23/2010 - RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFNS) -- With fewer than three weeks to go, the Air Force team is making preparations for the Department of Defense's inaugural Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, Colo., May 10th through the 14th.

What started as an e-mail from one athlete asking questions about the upcoming event turned into a process of team bonding with inspirational responses from other athletes providing encouragement and support.

"I don't want to let my team down," said retired Staff Sgt. Stacy Pearsall from Charleston, S.C.

Just moments later, retired Staff Sgt. Jeanne Goldy-Sanitate from Medford, N.J., responded with reassurance. "Hi Stacy, what an honor it is to be your teammate," she said.

"Do your best and you will be surprised that just competing and the camaraderie will carry you through," Sergeant Goldy-Sanitate said.

Other Warrior Games athletes responded as well.

"I read about your struggles and feel mine are minor but just as real to my family and me. The despair comes with each bad day and the exhilaration comes with the good ones," said Chief Master Sgt. Damian Orslene, superintendent of the 81st Training Support Squadron at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss.

"Going to these games, I can't lose," Chief Orslene said. "Because right this second, typing this and reaching out to you, I feel like an athlete again."

"You have all 20 of us," said retired Staff Sgt. Ricky Tackett from Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz. "We will bond and grow together. When the competition begins, we will adjust and represent our team with honor, discipline, heart and maybe some tears."

Wounded, ill and injured active duty, Guard and Reserve members, as well as veterans from the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard will participate in Warrior Games hosted by the U.S. Olympic Committee's Paralympic Military Program at the Olympic Training Center.

The Air Force team consists of a diverse group of 20 athletes from all over the U.S. coming together for the first time.

Events will include shooting, swimming, archery, sitting volleyball, cycling, track, wheelchair basketball, discus and shot put.

Sergeant Pearsall will participate in the shooting and track events; Sergeant Goldy-Sanitate will participate in the swimming, hand-cycling, shooting and wheelchair basketball events; Chief Orslene will participate in the swimming events; and Sergeant Tackett will participate in the track and seated volleyball events.

Sergeant Pearsall, who was a combat photographer and two-time winner of the Military Photographer of the Year award, reflected on her time during her last deployment where 60 soldiers were killed within the span of four months. Of those casualties, seven were her close friends.

"As a combat photographer, I had the honor of being the last person to ever document their lives. Their sacrifice was the ultimate one," Sergeant Pearsall said.

Even though running is physically painful for Sergeant Pearsall, she is inspired to run for those who died or were wounded and can no longer run themselves.

"I run for Specialist Trussel, Corporal Nguyen, Specialist Russell, Specialist Camacho, Sergeant Ross, Sergeant Shaw, Captain Belser and Sergeant Robinson," Sergeant Pearsall said.

Running is no longer an option for Sergeant Goldy-Sanitate. She lost both her legs in a vehicle accident while on duty for an exercise.

"I would love to run but since I am now a wheelie, I can crank it out on my hand cycle," she said. "I need to learn how to swim the back stroke again without using my legs, but I am up for the challenge."

"Regardless of where you are in your training and rehabilitation, we will meet you where you are," said Cami Stock, head coach for the Air Force team. "For some of you, this may be the first time in a long time that you're experiencing sport and competition. Know that wherever you are, you are an incredibly valuable member of this team."

For some, three weeks is not soon enough.

"I can't wait to meet and greet you all," Sergeant Tackett said. "With the strength in all of us, we will all have a winning experience and also pass the torch to the next group in the upcoming years."

For information on the Air Force Wounded Warrior program, go to http://www.woundedwarrior.af.mil. For information on Warrior Games, go to http://usparalympics.org/pages/8330.



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