Inaugural Marine Trials for Wounded Warrior Games
More than 150 Marines, many of them missing a limb, are competing this week in the first ever Marine trials for the Warrior Games later this year. More Marines are remaining in the service, even with serious injuries that might have disqualified them in the past.
At the inauguration ceremony for the trials at Camp Pendleton, Marines stood at attention. They came from around the country. Some had empty sleeves hanging at their sides, others were in wheel chairs. But all were ready for the games to begin.
“The motto of the Wounded Warrior Regiment is “etiam in pugna” said Col. Jay Krail, head of the regiment. “It’s Latin for 'still in the fight.”'
Most of these Marines are literally still in the fight. They have not left the service. They are living as part of the Corps’ Wounded Warrior Battalion.
Justin Knowles has not let the loss of his leg in Afghanistan in 2008 stop him. Last year he won gold as a member of the wheelchair basketball team. Now he’s getting ready to play in the new sit-down volleyball team.
“Before sports I stayed in my room,” he said. “But playing sports allowed me to open up.”
And stay in good shape. Knowles is still enlisted. He’s now determined to beat teams from the Army, the Navy and the Air Force at the Warrior Games in Colorado in May.
Marine Corporal Manuel Jimenez was a gunner in Afghanistan last year when he lost an arm in a bomb blast.
“They got my arm," he said. “That’s all they got. They didn’t take anything else.”
Jimenez can still run. He’s competing in the 100, 200 and 800 meter track. He said he is getting a prosthetic to ride bikes, so eventually he’ll be able to do triathlons again.
Nico Marcolongo, a former Marine who runs the non-profit “Challenged Athletes,” said some of those at the Warrior Games are veterans, but many are still on active duty.
“I think now more than ever, there is really an emphasis on keeping the troops in the fight,” he said, “and with the advancement of prosthetics, these troops, they’re motivated to stay on active duty and some of them redeploy. It’s a reality of today’s military.”
The Wounded Warrior Battalion on base has a center that houses 200 Marines and provides support for more than 3,000 Marines living with injuries around the Southwest.