Written by Navy Safe Harbor Public Affairs.
In an atmosphere filled with pride and patriotism, over 200 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen opened the 2011 Warrior Games at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Monday evening.
The ceremony began with a ”march of the athletes” along the Olympic Path which was lined with a throng of flag-waving and cheering family members, friends and supporters and was followed by the time-honored tradition of carrying the torch to light the Olympic flame. Replete with military honors, including a flyover by Navy F-18 Super Hornet fighter jets, the ceremony kicked off a challenging and competitive week for the wounded, injured and seriously-ill athletes.
“You represent the warrior spirit that says we cannot be defeated,” U.S. Navy Admiral James Winnefield, commander of U.S. Northern Command and NORAD, told the athletes. “These games are a triumph of human spirit and hard work and we know how hard you’ve worked to be here today.”
Representing the Navy/Coast Guard team as torchbearers were Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Robert “Steve” Lipscomb and retired Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Michael K. Bell. They were part of a group of six service members, representing each of the military branches along with Special Operations Command, who were given the honor to carry the torch to Medal of Honor recipient Army Staff Sgt. Salvatore Giunta, who lit the flame above the training center for the games.
For Lipscomb and Bell, the honor of carrying the torch meant much more than merely fulfilling a tradition.
“Carrying that torch shows that we can overcome anything before us,” said Lipscomb. “It also represented the men and women who’ve given the ultimate sacrifice. That flame was a symbol of hope and freedom.”
The 2011 Warrior Games are Lipscomb’s first. The native of Goldsboro, N.C., was diagnosed in August 2010 with stage four diffuse gastric cancer. Although he is still in the process of taking chemotherapy, Lipscomb is highly motivated to beat his odds and has set some high goals for the competition.
Lipscomb will participate in three events during the games: cycling (30-kilometer road race), shooting (10-meter air pistol) and wheelchair basketball.
The husband and father of two daughters, Lipscomb serves on active duty with the Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Group in Williamsburg, Va.
For Bell, a two-time participant and bronze medal winner in the inaugural 2010 Warrior Games, being a torch bearer provided a symbol of hope.
“For me carrying that torch shows that there is hope after injury. You have to adapt and overcome,” he said.
Bell will be competing in the 10-kilometer recumbent cycling road race as well as shot put and discus events.
In 2007, Bell was stricken at the age of 22 with a stroke that left his entire right side paralyzed. Through a year-and-a-half rehabilitation and hard work, he relearned to walk, talk, eat and do many other basic daily tasks.
He medically retired from the Coast Guard and now lives in Union, Mo., where he attends college and is preparing to earn a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling. He also participates in cycling events, such as the Tour de Corn, the Tour de Cure for diabetes and the MS 150, a 150-mile bike ride for multiple sclerosis.
The 2011 Warrior Games will continue through Saturday, May 21, and will include competitions in cycling, archery, shooting, wheelchair basketball, volleyball, swimming and track and field events.
To get the latest news from the Warrior Games, including event results, click here to visit the Warrior Games page on Facebook.
Team Navy/Coast Guard is sponsored by Navy Safe Harbor, the lead organization for coordinating the non-medical care of wounded, ill and injured Sailors, Coast Guardsmen and their families. Through proactive leadership, Safe Harbor provides a lifetime of individually tailored assistance designed to optimize the success of enrollees’ recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration activities.