This afternoon, I had the pleasure of attending the USA Hockey Disabled Festival. There were all ages represented, but my main reason for going was to see the warriors from WRAMC (Walter Reed Army Medical Center) battle it out with warriors from BAMC (Brooke Army Medical Center). This was a sled hockey competition and if you thought ice skating standing up, using both legs was rough, you should try balancing on a thin blade while seated, using only your upper body strength and hockey sticks to race you across the ice. Now try this missing one or both legs. There was a bit of everything out on the ice, but mostly, I witnessed courage and determination.
2008's Miss Virginia sang a beautiful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner before the start of the game. With my hand over my heart, it was impossible to keep a dry eye as I realized I was in the presence of some of the bravest young men I have had the pleasure of knowing, who's wounds may run deep, but they gladly sacrificed on our behalf.
What proceeded were 3 fast paced periods of 14 minutes each. I was rooting for the USA Warriors team, as it was made up of many of my Walter Reed warriors. However, as it turned out, there was also at least one Walter Reed alum on the San Antonio Rampage. I found myself just enjoying the game and marveling at the speed and skill of these athletes.
All in all, it was a great game; the USA Warriors fought tough, but the Rampage ended up with the victory. It wasn't just a great game; it was an inspiration, watching these wounded warriors working hard and never giving up, showing me once again, that anything is possible.
Stay tuned for part II in two weeks, when the Face of America bike ride brings together riders of all ages and athletic ability, but it will be the recovering wounded/ill warriors, past and present, that will bring tears to your eyes as they cross the finish line after a grueling 110 bike ride from Washington, D.C. to historic Gettysburg...