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Wounded Warriors line up for shot at gold in trials

2 Mar 2011 | Cpl. M. C. Nerl

The inaugural 2010 Marine Corps Trials, hosted at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., gave wounded, ill and injured Marines and other U.S. and allied veterans a chance to compete against one another in various challenges Feb. 17 – 27.

The trials, hosted by the U.S. Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment, gave coaches and regimental staff a chance to hand-pick 50 wounded, ill, and injured Marines and Marine veterans to participate in the 2011 All-Marine Warrior Games team. The team will participate in the Warrior Games against the other branches of the service in Colorado Springs, Colo., toward the end of May said Maj. Susan Stark, the Warrior Athlete Re-commissioning Program officer in charge.

 “We have 155 athletes, which include 18 from the countries of Australia, the Netherlands and Great Britain, plus our Marines” said Stark, from Hudson, Ohio. “We put together this event to get these Marines active and get them participating in something – and there’s no better way to do that than to provide a little bit of competition.”

The athletes competed in swimming, cycling, track and field, archery, shooting, wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball, Stark added.

 “We’re putting this on so they can learn,” she said. “We’ve brought in about 30 world-class coaches, which includes Olympic gold and silver medalists, along with Paralympics gold medalists and other elite-qualified coaches.”

In addition to the games, the competitors were also visited by the Commandant and Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps, General James F. Amos and Sergeant Major Carlton W. Kent, who went around visiting with wounded Marines and sharing some laughs.

 The program is a welcome change from former eras, said Daniel Paul O’Connor, a former Marine who was severely injured in the Vietnam War.

 “There’s so much they have nowadays in all the Armed Services for these guys,” said the St. Albans, W.V., native. “Back in my day, if you were severely wounded, you were immediately put out and handed over to [the Department of Veterans Affairs].”

O’Connor added the program wouldn’t be what it is without the spirit of the service members fighting through their injuries.

 “Being an old amputee, I try to work with these kids,” he said. “I want to show these kids – I respectfully call them kids, because I’m 64 years old – if this 64-year-old-fart can do this, then they can do it.

I see them with their multiple injuries and their multiple amputations and everything,” he said. “I see this and I think. Where do they make them? Where do you find kids that have this attitude? They’re few and far between.”

Sergeant Daniel Govier, a much younger member of the veterans’ team, said the games were a great time, and a great source of pride for him.

“The best part is seeing the camaraderie between the teammates and how everyone interacts,” said the Bauskinville, Wis., native. “It really brings out true Esprit de Corps.

It shows these people we still care about them,” Govier said. “There’s so many events out there, and it gives all these guys a chance to get the competitive juices flowing again.”

Organizers said the first Marine Corps Trials were a success and plans are in the works to make it an annual event. The 50 Marines who were selected to represent the Marine Corps in May have already began to prepare to take on competitors from the Army, Navy and Air Force, to see who is the ultimate warrior.

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