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Old 05-13-2010, 07:20 PM
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Cool Warrior Games aim to help combat-wounded military personnel back in action

Warrior Games aim to help combat-wounded military personnel back in action

The event, organized by the Defense Department and U.S. Olympic Committee, pits ill and injured personnel against one another. 'That competitive thing is very healing,' one athlete says.

May 10, 2010|By Tony Perry, Los Angeles Times
  • Don Bartletti, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from San Diego Army Sgt. 1st Class Jacque Keeslar had both legs blown off when the Stryker vehicle in which he was manning a .50-caliber machine gun hit a roadside bomb in Rawah, Iraq, in June 2006.
Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Cheramie lost his left leg below the knee when he stepped on a bomb while on patrol in Now Zad, Afghanistan, in December 2008.
Keeslar and Cheramie were athletes before their wounds and now both are part of a military program that uses competitive sports as a means to overcome the physical and

On Monday, the two were among 200 injured or ill military personnel most of them wounded in combat participating in the inaugural Warrior Games at the U.S. Olympic Complex in Colorado Springs, Colo.

The weeklong games are a joint venture between the U.S. Olympic Committee and the Department of Defense, with support from the USO and several corporations such as the Deloitte accounting and consulting firm. Organizers hope it will become an annual event.

Keeslar, 40, will compete in swimming events, shotput and wheelchair basketball. Cheramie, 21, is set to swim the 50-meter freestyle, 100-meter freestyle and 50-meter breast stroke.

Cheramie has been a patient at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. Keeslar is a platoon sergeant at the barracks for wounded and injured personnel receiving therapy at the Naval Medical Center San Diego, which is sending 10 athletes (one sailor, seven soldiers, two Marines) to the games.

Both centers specialize in the use of prosthetics and in guiding personnel back to active lifestyles through sports. In San Diego, the center has classes in archery, scuba diving, rock-climbing, volleyball, kayaking, surfing and more.

"It's that competitive thing," Keeslar said. "It's very healing."

Cheramie said he hopes to serve as a role model for other military personnel.

"I want to show them it's not over just because you've been injured," Cheramie said in a telephone interview. "Everybody goes through that 'I'm ugly, nobody will love me, I'm stuck in a wheelchair' depression. You have to move on."

Five wounded personnel one each from the Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard carried the symbolic torch into the arena in Colorado Springs on Monday, where it was handed to Roger Staubach, a Naval Academy graduate and NFL Hall of Famer.

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