The vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff yesterday joined wounded warriors, Major League Baseball’s Washington Nationals organization and celebrities from across the country for the third annual Wounded Warriors Celebrity Softball Classic here.
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Navy Adm. James A. “Sandy” Winnefeld Jr., vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warms up with two wounded warriors before the third annual Wounded Warriors Celebrity Softball Classic at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., Sept. 15, 2013. DOD photo by Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
Navy Adm. James A. “Sandy” Winnefeld Jr., joined the Blue Team of veterans, active duty service members and celebrities for a fierce competition against the White Team at Nationals Park.
Since 2011, the Nationals have hosted this annual event on the field at their home ballpark to raise awareness that “life without a limb is limitless,” team officials said in a news release about the event.
“These guys understand that ability overcomes disability every time,” Winnefeld said. “And they live it each and every day, not only when they are playing softball, but when they wake up in the morning and they go on with life -- they want to know about ability.”
The vice chairman said the team routinely travels throughout the country seeking competition from other teams and often is underestimated.
“If you ever watched these guys play, it’s scary how good they are,” the admiral said. “These guys will show up in towns all across America, and those towns will think, ‘Oh, we have to give these guys a break,’ and they find out pretty quickly how good these guys are at playing softball.”
Winnefeld noted he considers these wounded warriors to be “elite” athletes, and he noted parallels with traditional athletes.
“I think athletes have to struggle every day to overcome adversity,” he said. “They have setbacks, they have successes and the like. And that’s what these guys deal with every day.”
That spirit also shows through during the annual Warrior Games competition in Colorado Springs, Colo., the vice chairman added.
“And you can see it in their eyes that they’re working so hard and they’re so proud that they’ve overcome the adversity that they’ve seen in life,” he said.
Winnefeld’s hopes for his own participation in the game seemed to reflect the level of respect he had for the competition he’d be facing.
“I’m going to have to work really hard just to hold my own today,” he said. “I just want to get a base hit -- that’s all I want.”
Winnefeld and the Blue Team fell to the White Team, 10-9. But regardless of the game’s outcome, the vice chairman said, it was a “real honor and privilege” to be on the field with the wounded warriors. He shared insight into some of the conversations he has shared with many of them.
“We’ve had a lot of discussions about what they’ve overcome and the perseverance and the fact that ability overcomes disability every time,” Winnefeld said. “The attitude among these young men and women is fantastic.”
The vice chairman was asked if the country has done a better job embracing its wounded warriors after two prolonged wars.
“I think there are a couple of things going on here,” Winnefeld said. “First of all, because of the remarkable advances we’ve had in battlefield medical care and post-battlefield medical care, so many of these people are alive now -- people who would not have survived previous wars.
“I also believe that the country has stepped up, and they understand that the warriors out there should be honored, treated well and with respect,” he continued. “The combination of those two things has really made a difference for these guys. So it is different this time around