Injured Troops Go For Gold In Warrior Games Capt. Juan Guerrero, who lost part of his calf when his Humvee hit a roadside bomb in Iraq, was one of 200 wounded, ill and injured athletes who competed in the first-ever Wounded Warrior Games last week in Colorado Springs, Colo. The competition helps show service members that there is life after an injury.
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Injured Troops Go For Gold In Warrior Games

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Injured Troops Go For Gold In Warrior Games

Injured Troops Go For Gold In Warrior Games

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REBECCA ROBERTS, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rebecca Roberts.

The inaugural Warrior Games wrapped up this week at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. It was a sports competition for about 200 wounded, ill and injured service members from across all five branches of the military.

Grace Hood from member station KUNC reports.

GRACE HOOD: Fifteen service members from the Army, Navy and Marines are suited up in spandex, helmets and bike shoes for a training ride. Behind them, an early morning light radiates from the mountains.

Captain JUAN GUERRERO (Army): I got the camera working this time.

HOOD: That's 39-year-old Army Captain Juan Guerrero from Brook Army Medical Center in San Antonio. He's straddling his short but sizeable frame over his bike. He fidgets with a small video camera strapped onto his handlebars.

Capt. GUERRERO: I just make videos and post them on Facebook. Just for my friends to see what I do.

HOOD: Guerrero likes to document things with video and pictures. And since he moved from Peru to the U.S. in 1986, he's had a lot to capture. First, he joined the Marines after high school, then four years later the Army. There was marriage and three kids. He fought in Desert Storm, and after 9/11 two tours in Iraq. On July 26, 2007, an IED blast ripped through his Humvee.

Mr. GUERRERO: If it wasn't for my medic, I would've lost at least my right leg from the get-go. But because of the training that we always conducted on our downtime, he was able to do exactly what he was trained to do and as a result saved my legs.

HOOD: However, Guerrero did lose part of his right calf and left heel. The Army moved him to Walter Reed Medical Center, where he spent four-and-a-half months recovering.

For Guerrero and many who are injured, athletics can become an outlet for physical and emotional recovery. Add in a bit of competition and that's the idea behind the first-ever Warrior Games. The competition pits all five military branches against one another in sports like cycling, track, swimming and wheelchair basketball - seven sports overall.

Brigadier General GARY CHEEK (U.S. Army): It really just proves so much for our service members participating that there is life after an injury.

HOOD: That's Brigadier General Gary Cheek. He oversees the Army's units for wounded warriors.

Mr. CHEEK: They're going to reinforce some things they already knew about abilities that they have. But they're going to discover some new things.

HOOD: Captain Guerrero competed in three sports: sitting volleyball, cycling and prone air rifle shooting. And it's in the shooting competition he gets at least one new photo he'll want to show to his family and friends.

Unidentified Man: And your winner with a final of 93.4, an aggregate score of 286.4, your gold medalist, Juan Guerrero.

(Soundbite of applause)

HOOD: Guerrero's gold medal came down to his last shot. He says the message of perseverance is important.

Mr. GUERRERO: Try, if you don't succeed, try again.

For NPR News, I'm Grace Hood.

ROBERTS: To see photos from the Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, go to our website, NPR.org.

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