(Via Ho’okele News)
Master Sgt. Matthew McGovern
Pacific Air Forces Public Affairs
The Wounded Warrior Pacific Invitational, a three-day adaptive athletic competition among 120 wounded warriors, concluded with a recognition ceremony and luau at the Hale Koa Hotel on Jan. 11.
Leadership from each service branch attended the ceremony to present their athletes with a participation medallion. Gen. “Hawk” Carlisle, Pacific Air Forces commander, congratulated the 30 Air Force wounded warriors.
“You are an inspiration to us all,” Carlisle said. “Let me thank you for everything you’ve done, your sacrifice for your nation, and everything you do today to inspire all of us to be better at what we do.”
During the three days leading up to the ceremony, wounded warriors from the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Navy and Special Operations Command competed in cycling, seated volleyball, swimming, track and field, and wheelchair basketball.
“My favorite part of this competition is the teamwork and level of competition. I really had to push myself,” said Staff Sgt. August O’Neill, Air Force wounded warrior. O’Neill was struck in the left knee and right calf by enemy small arms fire July 2011 while deployed to Southwest Asia. Although he awaits knee replacement surgery, he was able to compete in swimming, hand cycling and seated volleyball.
Participants included active duty and retired service members with upper-body, lower-body and spinal cord injuries, serious illnesses, traumatic brain injuries, visual impairment, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Steve Otero, the Air Force Wounded Warriors communication coordinator, said he was honored to help coordinate the event. As a wounded warrior himself who suffered from PTSD after two consecutive deployments to Southwest Asia, he said he is grateful to be working in his position.
“During this adaptive sports competition, I realized I can still serve as an Airman – just at a different capacity: being there for other Airmen,” he said. “I have the privilege of learning everyone’s story, and I encourage them to share their stories to inspire others.”
This Wounded Warrior Pacific Invitational is in preparation for the United States Olympic Committee’s Warrior Games, held at the U.S. Olympic Training Center and the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.