Warrior Game Trials
2 years ago I received a phone call to participate in the inaugural warrior games. It is an Olympic style competition where wounded and injured soldiers from the Air force, Army, Navy, Coastguard and Marines compete in various events against each other. I decided it would be a great opportunity to coach and went on to have an amazing experience with the Marine team as we had won the event and the throwers took home 8 of 12 medals (these guys were without a doubt the most coach-able athletes I ever had, not surprised, marines tend to listen to instruction pretty well:)). Had the opportunity meet some amazing people and started some new friendships. I can say it was one of the most uplifting and eye opening experiences in my life. It taught me so many things all in two weeks and I left those games almost in awe at what I had seen. Sadly, last year I could not return for various reasons.
This year I was invited back again for another round, and once again AkzoNobel allowed me to take the time to go out and coach Marine Corps team trials. This trial period would determine who would go out to compete for the Marines in the 2012 warrior games in Colorado Springs. The first round we had 48 marines who were on the team, this time we had 300 who wanted to participate but only 50 can go on. For 9 days these Marines had three 2 hour training sessions in all areas of discipline, from archery & shooting, to swimming & cycling, and Track & Field.
When I arrived in Camp Pendleton I had the opportunity to meet the other three coaches who coached last year’s games and I would be working with for the next 10 days. All came from Oregon and all three are hammer throwers. Lucais Mackay, Brittany Hinchcliffe, and Mandi Federici. Whenever you go on a trip to coach a technical event it’s always a concern of probably any coach what technique others are going to teach, their school of thought in general on weight training and periodization, etc. The goal for these trials was to give the marines and allies a good foundation to train on, but this is hard to do if the coaching staff is all on a different page. Lucky for me the three coaches I was going to work with were amazing not only as coaches but people as well. Technically we all agreed but more importantly I think the chemistry between us was just right for the environment we were in. It was one of the only groups I have ever been with that I didn’t care how much time in the day we spent together. I’m a pretty easy going guy, but usually after spending 12 hours with someone I want to get a break from them and just go off on my own and chill and decompress. Honestly we were literally stuck together most days from 7am-9pm and it was awesome. Constant laughter and good times were had through the crazy schedule we had to carry. Even when we were dragging at the end of the day and could barely stay awake there was no stress between us. A big thank you to those three as this week without them would have been pretty tough. And best wishes to them as Brittany and Lucais are also training for the 2012 trials.
I also roomed with an Australian Marine name Scott Mengel whom I became friends with over the 10 day trip. We shared stories, pictures and boomerangs. Ok he gave me a boomerang, but you get the point. He gave me a 101 on how to play the digeridoo and how to make one of those things that crocodile Dundee uses to call his mates. Awesome guy and he & his crew did a fantastic job at the games. Also met a cool German named Thomas who tried to help me with my German but still need some more work on that. I am sure I will see these guys again in the future
Back to the games. When you are coaching Marines with wounds or injuries you have to adapt to their situation. Really not a problem except we had probably 100 athletes to train in those first 5 days from all walks of life and even some from different countries. Athletes from Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, Columbia, France, and Canada you are not only working with different ailments but different cultures. But one thing was true in all of these guys/gals was the fight was still in them. What many don’t realize is you can take a marine out of the fight but you can’t take the fight out of the Marine. No matter the circumstance it’s always there, the only difference is the mission in front of them. I remember the feeling of not knowing what my mission was after I was blasted and it took a while to understand “the fight” is not just on the battle field, it’s every day you wake up. You fight the good fight if you choose, or you can lye down and succumb to the negativity that will barrage you if you let it.
Our jobs as coaches, was to put the weapons back in their hands to get back in the fight: the mission? Start the healing. As crazy as that may sound, healing is a war that takes most many years to win from one traumatic wound that happened in all of a second in time, but it’s the fight inside of these Marines and allies that will carry them through to recover from these wounds. It’s a page that everyone should take out of their book and learn from it. Their wounds and injuries may be deeper and more shocking than most, but at the end of the day we are all inflicted with pain in our lives and it’s up to us, it is our choice on what we do after the smoke clears and the dust settles. We can either pick ourselves up and go on, or we can be a victim and dig our own grave. What we saw this week was nothing but Marines and Allies picking themselves up after the most adverse circumstances were put in front of them.
This people, is a true testament of the spirit of humanity and rising up from the ashes. In my opinion this is true courage and perseverance. As the song goes and I’m paraphrasing, we will not bow, we will not break, we will shut the world away, we will not fall, we will not fade, we will take your breath away, and we will survive.
I challenge you to reach out to these Wounded Warriors and to those who think they have been dealt a bad hand any way you can. Further, look inside yourself and see if there are any wounds that require more than a battle dressing. There comes a point in our lives where just getting by is not good enough and full recovery is needed. If you think you have a disability, think again, it’s purely an opportunity. This is what I learned from these fine people and I want to pass this on to you. When you see a blind double amputee smiling and joking after swimming a race this will light a fire under your butt so hot you can’t help but stand up and cheer.
So many distinguished individuals were there to visit and show support to these warriors. A couple that stuck out was Ben a special forces Aussie who was awarded their medal of honor aka a VC. He was a large bloak towering at 6’7” and looked like he was chiseled from a rock. Super nice guy and he will be returning to Afghanistan in a few months. Thoughts and Prayers will be with him and his family. Another individual we met was Anthony Robles.
We had the honor to meet and hear Anthony, I think everyone was choked up seeing what this young man did, he beat the odds and then some. If you ever think for one second you can’t you’re right, if you ever think you can, you’re right.
I pray for another opportunity like this, but I also know that opportunities to serve like this are in front of me almost every day, you just have to keep your eyes and ears open. Thank you Marines and thank you Allies once again I am honored to know and be a part of what you do. Semper Fidelis and Etiam in Pugna.