By Kyle Malloy, special contributor to Navy Installations Command Public Affairs
PORT HUENEME, Calif. -- Athletes from across the country battled it out on courts, tracks, and in the pool, Feb. 6-12, in hopes of earning a spot on the Navy's adaptive sports team for the 2017 Department of Defense Warrior Games.
The Navy trials were the first for all the military services and set the standard for competitiveness and athleticism. The athletes started out the week with a few days of practice, and then pushed themselves to the best of their individual abilities with the goal of making Team Navy.
"We are here to compete, but the focus of the week is to learn and to have fun," said retired Senior Chief Electronics Technician (Submarine) William "Bill" Longworth. "It felt like we weren't worried about the results, but instead we focused on helping and supporting each other throughout the process."
Retired Surface Warfare Officer Lt. Anna Kerry had been to one training camp before competing at the trials, and said she found the input of the coaches to be what helped her improve her skills.
"The coaches and the staff have been absolutely wonderful," said Kerry. "I took in what the coaches taught me and really surprised myself by how much I improved."
Regardless if the athletes had participated before or not, they all came to the Navy adaptive sports trials determined to do their best and support each other while doing it.
"This group is awesome," said Longworth. "Everyone has their challenges, so to be able to support each other in the recovery process and share this experience really feels more like we are a family."
"This is not just about our own self discovery, it's about a team effort to help each other discover new talents," said Kerry. "Everyone is extremely talented and I love the camaraderie we create here."
Even those who weren't competing felt the experience of the group dynamic and team spirit.
"I love watching the athletes support each other and continue to encourage one another," said Lt. Marjorie Lloyd, adaptive sports physical therapist, Navy Medical Center San Diego. "I have learned so much from working with these amazing warriors, and it truly has been such an honor."
The Navy Wounded Warrior adaptive sports program is one form of rehabilitation which helps wounded warriors build strength and endurance, while also drawing inspiration from their teammates.
"I've realized, regardless of injury or disability, you can still be successful at doing something," said Longworth.
"A lot changes after an injury and you have to figure out a new normal," said Kerry. "Just because we may have certain medical conditions does not preclude us from competing at a high level, and this program has helped me be open to new experiences without judgment."
Navy Wounded Warrior-Safe Harbor is the Navy's sole organization for coordinating the non-medical care of seriously wounded, ill, and injured Sailors and Coast Guardsmen, and providing resources and support to their families. Through proactive leadership, the program provides individually-tailored assistance designed to optimize the success of the wounded warriors' recovery, rehabilitation, and reintegration activities.
Kyle Malloy is a contributing writer for the Navy Wounded Warrior-Safe Harbor program under Navy Installations Command.
To learn more, visit http://www.navywoundedwarrior.com/.