By Vice Adm. Mary Jackson
Commander, Navy Installations Command

The 2017 Department of Defense Warrior Games are around the corner, just 90 days away!

As the newest commander for our Navy’s 71 installations under 11 regions worldwide, I am responsible for our mission of sustaining the fleet, enabling our Sailors and supporting their families, which involves the Navy’s quality of life activities, including the Navy’s Wounded Warrior – Safe Harbor program. I’m honored now to be a part of the awesome collaboration and coordination with the City of Chicago where the Warrior Games will be held this summer.

CHICAGO (April 4, 2017) Vice Adm. Mary M. Jackson, commander of Navy Installations Command, speaks to local veteran and military service organizations during the 90 Days to Warrior Games Reception at the Union League Club of Chicago. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Derek Paumen/Released)
CHICAGO (April 4, 2017) Vice Adm. Mary M. Jackson, commander of Navy Installations Command, speaks to local veteran and military service organizations during the 90 Days to Warrior Games Reception at the Union League Club of Chicago. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Derek Paumen/Released)

 

From June  30 through July 8, 2017, the Warrior Games will take place at several premier venues in downtown Chicago, such as the United Center, McCormick Place Convention Center, and Soldier Field, to name a few. This is the first time the Games will be held entirely outside of a military installation or a U.S. Olympic Training Center. As we bring the 2017 Games to a wider public audience, we need your help to spread the word.

This week I had the distinct privilege of visiting Chicago to meet with the Warrior Games host committee, presenting sponsors for the Games – Boeing and Fisher House – and many other key stakeholders from the city, to recognize the countdown to the Games. The commitment and willingness of so many who are eager to help produce a successful event for our athletes and their families this summer is truly remarkable.

While I was reminded during my visit that there is still much work to be done as we push forward to the opening ceremony, I was energized by the spirit and enthusiasm of all those who care and are ready to assist, whether through the contribution of sponsorship or through volunteer opportunities. I feel very fortunate to have this opportunity to work with the many professionals on so many levels. I’m proud of the efforts that have already been made and am confident that over the next 90 days we’ll continue to accomplish many more signature achievements.

The most rewarding part of my visit to Chicago, however, was the chance to meet and speak with several wounded warriors.

A. J. Mohammad is a combat-wounded Sailor who served in Iraq. His injuries include post-traumatic stress, visual impairment, a traumatic brain injury, hearing loss, facial paralysis and orthopedic injuries. A. J. now excels in archery and cycling.

WASHINGTON (Oct 11, 2016) Vice Adm. Dixon Smith, then commander of Navy Installations Command, rides in front as a “pilot” on a tandem bicycle with retired Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Adrian “AJ” Mohammad during a 17-mile fun ride that started and ended at the Washington, D.C.’s historic Navy Yard. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. Marissa A. Cruz/Released)
WASHINGTON (Oct 11, 2016) Vice Adm. Dixon Smith, then commander of Navy Installations Command, rides in front as a “pilot” on a tandem bicycle with retired Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Adrian “AJ” Mohammad during a 17-mile fun ride that started and ended at the Washington, D.C.’s historic Navy Yard. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. j.g. Marissa A. Cruz/Released)

 

R. J. Anderson is a soldier who was severely injured in a motorcycle accident. He was told he could never walk again. R.J. is now a wheelchair basketball player and excels in hand-cycling.

Ryan Shannon is a Navy veteran who was injured during an accident aboard a submarine while on active duty. He suffered traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress and paralysis of his left foot. He now shines in track and field, sitting volleyball and swimming.

These athletes have amazing stories to tell, and their powerful messages are sure to inspire us all. They each emphasize the power of adaptive sports and how their participation literally saved their lives and their families.

The resounding theme in all of this is the healing power of adaptive sports in a wounded warrior’s recovery. The ability to compete through events like the Warrior Games gives wounded warriors hope where they once felt there was none. Over and over again I heard the power of sport provides a catalyst to start living again, and the positive impacts it has not only on the individual, but on their families.

More than 250 wounded, ill or injured athletes are expected to participate in this year’s Warrior Games. Services are hosting their trials to identify which athletes will have the opportunity to compete, and we expect those teams to be announced very soon.

As we count down to the Warrior Games, I am asking all service members, military veterans, friends, family and supporters to learn more about this powerful program and what it means to those who have sacrificed so much. Please spread the word about adaptive sports, become an advocate for a wounded warrior today, and come out and join me in cheering on our amazing athletes this summer in Chicago!

For more information about the Warrior Games, the schedule of events and other details, visit dodwarriorgames.com and follow the Games on Facebook.