Written by Caitie Craumer, Manager, Airmen & Family Programs
Winning medals, places, and other awards were only a small part of what the Warrior Games were actually about. What was more important were the friendships formed, the support across “team” lines really defined the attitudes of the warriors there. There were opportunities for athletes of all abilities—including a visually-impaired cycling heat with tandem bikes for one person to steer and the other to drive the pedaling power.
The teamwork involved in practice and competition was transformative. Between the first hour of practice and the last, each airman learned how to work together. This was most visible in seated volleyball, where part of the game was connecting with the other players by using their names and nicknames in passing, and congratulating the other teams on good shots. Many of the airmen shared stories of coming out of their shells and making new friends during the training camps, and really learned to watch out for each other as part of a larger team. They wanted to introduce me to their families, and they wanted me to try the sports!
In the end, it wasn’t the number of medals (though there were many!) that mattered, but the resilience and the teamwork of the athletes, and the outpouring of support they received from friends, family, and fans.
AFA’s Role at the Games
Working closely with the needs of AFW2, AFA was able to prepare for the Games by helping to fund a pecially-outfitted wheelchair delivery for Chris Wolff—without which he might not be competiting. He was overwhelming grateful for our help, and in more than one conversation regarding his personal journey to the Games I overheard him saying that it was AFA that helped get him there in the end. It meant a lot that I was able to be there to see him in action, and to give him and his family a hug after the race!
Colorado State really stepped up on their turf, and state President Tom Cavalli was on hand to meet many of the warriors, as well as Region President Gayle White. Colorado “adopted” Brandon Bishop. Tom was there to meet Brandon, and then continue to cheer him on as he competed throughout the week. The athletes all became AFA’s team, and will officially become members following the Games. This support was truly transformative, and AFW2 made sure that these airmen knew that AFA was there for them. Unfortunately, I missed the opening Pep Rally, but many groups were represented in support of family programs (Fisher House, Bob Woodruff Foundation, Hero Miles, Semper Fi Fund, AFFN, America’s Fund, Hope for the Warriors, Navy Safe Harbor, Operation Homefront, and USO), and AFA was given a shout out. Perhaps the duffle bags we sent had something to do with it…