By Annette P. Gomes Army Warrior Care and Transition
TAMPA, Fla. — Retired Command Sgt. Maj. David Jones saw a lot in his 30 years in the military. After retiring in January of 1992 at MacDill Air Force Base, nothing could prepare him for the transformation he says the military has undergone as he and his friend Ginny Polege witnessed while they attended the 2019 Department of Defense Warrior Games.
The event highlights adapted reconditioning sports, a competition for wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans.
“This was unheard of back when I was enlisted. You didn’t see prosthetics, there were no opportunities to engage in activities like this. You were simply discharged and often times forgotten about. This was truly overwhelming to see.” said Jones.
“I was speechless. This was an incredible experience.” added Polege.
Approximately 300 athletes represented teams from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Special Operations Command, United Kingdom Armed Forces, Australian Defence Force, Canadian Armed Forces, Armed Forces of the Netherlands, and the Danish Armed Forces at the 2019 Department of Defense Warrior Games. Athletes competed in archery, cycling, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming, track, ﬁeld, wheelchair basketball, indoor rowing, powerlifting, and for the ﬁrst time in Warrior Games history, golf, wheelchair tennis, and wheelchair rugby.
Jones said he became aware of the event in the spring but had long forgotten about it.
“I just happened to be on the golf course when the first round of practice kicked off last week. I saw the helicopters and the color guard and I was deeply moved,” said Jones. “I’ve known many men that lost their limbs or their eyesight and they were limited in what they can do. To see these Soldiers participating in several rounds of golf touched me and Ginny deeply.” he added.
Jones along with Polege said the experience motivated them to drive an hour to the Tampa Convention Center to experience other events including the sitting volleyball competition.
“We didn’t know anyone participating in the games but we felt as if they were all our children,” said Polege.
“This is the best investment the military could make. These type of activities allow them to continue on in life as they become whole again. We owe a lot to our veterans because they did so much for this nation and we owe them,” added Jones.