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Injured Troops Go For Gold In Warrior Games

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Injured Troops Go For Gold In Warrior Games

Sports

Injured Troops Go For Gold In Warrior Games

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  • Cpt. Juan Guerrero was one of 200 disabled athletes chosen to attend the 2010 Inaugural Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, Co. The games, which ran from May 10 to May 15, let wounded service members from all five branches of the military compete in seven different sports.
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    Cpt. Juan Guerrero was one of 200 disabled athletes chosen to attend the 2010 Inaugural Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, Co. The games, which ran from May 10 to May 15, let wounded service members from all five branches of the military compete in seven different sports.
    Katie Hayes for NPR
  • Guerrero, originally from Lima, Peru, now resides at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas. Here, he looks through a scope at the shooting range at the TMI private school in San Antonio.
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    Guerrero, originally from Lima, Peru, now resides at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas. Here, he looks through a scope at the shooting range at the TMI private school in San Antonio.
    Katie Hayes for NPR
  • Guerrero suffered injuries to both his legs while serving with the Army in Iraq in 2007. He also suffers from PTSD, and doesn't like to ride in the passenger side of cars which can trigger memories of the accident. Here, he prepares to cycle on base in San Antonio.
    Hide caption
    Guerrero suffered injuries to both his legs while serving with the Army in Iraq in 2007. He also suffers from PTSD, and doesn't like to ride in the passenger side of cars which can trigger memories of the accident. Here, he prepares to cycle on base in San Antonio.
    Katie Hayes for NPR
  • Guerrero was convoy commander for a bomb squad when his vehicle ran over an IED. He recieved lower leg injuries that resulted in a loss of part of his right calf, heel bone, and severe muscle and tissue damage.
    Hide caption
    Guerrero was convoy commander for a bomb squad when his vehicle ran over an IED. He recieved lower leg injuries that resulted in a loss of part of his right calf, heel bone, and severe muscle and tissue damage.
    Katie Hayes for NPR
  • In Colorado Springs, Guerrero prepares to compete in the first event, sitting volleyball, at the Warrior Games on May 11.
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    In Colorado Springs, Guerrero prepares to compete in the first event, sitting volleyball, at the Warrior Games on May 11.
    Katie Hayes for NPR
  • Guerrero competes in a sitting volleyball match. In this sport, the net is about 3 feet high. Players are allowed to block serves, but one "cheek" must be in contact with the floor whenever they touch the ball.
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    Guerrero competes in a sitting volleyball match. In this sport, the net is about 3 feet high. Players are allowed to block serves, but one "cheek" must be in contact with the floor whenever they touch the ball.
    Katie Hayes for NPR
  • Guerrero competes in the 20k cycling race held at the Air Force Academy on May 13. Cold weather hampered the athletes, and he did not place in the event.
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    Guerrero competes in the 20k cycling race held at the Air Force Academy on May 13. Cold weather hampered the athletes, and he did not place in the event.
    Katie Hayes for NPR
  • Guerrero massages his left heal to bring back circulation in his foot after the cycling race. In addition, he suffers severe pain in his right leg, and is hoping to get an amputation to remove the damaged limb.
    Hide caption
    Guerrero massages his left heal to bring back circulation in his foot after the cycling race. In addition, he suffers severe pain in his right leg, and is hoping to get an amputation to remove the damaged limb.
    Katie Hayes for NPR
  • Guerrero competes in the preliminary of the "Air Rifle – Prone – Lower Body Impairment" competition. He later won gold in the event, which came down to his last shot.
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    Guerrero competes in the preliminary of the "Air Rifle – Prone – Lower Body Impairment" competition. He later won gold in the event, which came down to his last shot.
    Katie Hayes for NPR
  • Guerrero (center) walks with Robert Beach (left) and Richard Tack after the medal ceremony for the air rifle prone event.  "It really just proves so much for our service members that there is life after an injury," he said.
    Hide caption
    Guerrero (center) walks with Robert Beach (left) and Richard Tack after the medal ceremony for the air rifle prone event. "It really just proves so much for our service members that there is life after an injury," he said.
    Katie Hayes for NPR

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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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