By Army National Guard Sgt. Darron Salzer
National Guard Bureau
ARLINGTON, Va. (5/1/12) – Among the 50 Army athletes at this year's Warrior Games - which serve as an introduction to Paralympic sports for injured service members - are five current members and veterans of the Army National Guard, competing against their counterparts from the other military services in Colorado Springs, Colo. April 30 to May 5.
For competitors, like retired Pennsylvania Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Michael Kacer, it's a chance to let everyone see that just because he's disabled, it doesn't mean that he is handicapped.
"I like to say I'm handi-capable," said Kacer, who is competing in track and field and swimming.
The other competing members from the Army Guard are Staff Sgt. Vester Hasson from Utah, competing in cycling, shooting and swimming; retired Sgt. Sean Hook from Pennsylvania, competing in track and field; retired Staff Sgt. Jessie White from Maryland, competing in archery and track and field; and retired Sgt. Robbie Gaupp from Texas, competing in track and field, swimming and seated volleyball.
For Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, the best part of the competition is having the ability to interact with the wounded warriors and seeing what they can do.
"What they provide us is an incredible example of overcoming their disabilities by what they do with new abilities," he said. "Every one of them has a different set of challenges, as do their families, and it's a great opportunity for me as the chairman to build my understanding of those challenges, but also to thank the young men and women and their families."
Dempsey said he really couldn't be prouder of the men and women who show other service members every day how they have the ability overcome disability.
"Winning a cup really isn't what these games are all about – they mean something different to each of us," he said about the games.
"To the athletes, they mean not only proving what you can do to the world, they're also about proving what you can do for yourself," he said. "It's about demonstrating the power of ability over disability."
He added that the Warrior Games were not just a competition, but also a military family reunion. "We've got SEALs and tank commanders, pilots and active, Guard and Reserve from all over our great country."
As the competitors sat under the warmth of the Colorado sun, they listened to Dempsey's last bit of advice and inspiration.
"The examples you set here moves the Warrior Games from being a once-a-year event to an every day event, and that's a very good thing – this is an event of champions."