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Winnefeld Praises Athletes at Warrior Games' Kick Off

By Terri Moon Cronk
WASHINGTON — The 200 wounded, injured, and ill service members and veterans competing in this year’s Warrior Games are the best of the best, Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr., vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said today during the event’s opening ceremonies in Colorado Springs, Colo. 

Winnefeld called the games, comprising volleyball, wheelchair basketball, archery, swimming, cycling, shooting, track and field including discus and shot put events, the “highlight of the year” in his keynote remarks. The games run through May 16 at the U.S. Air Force Academy and the U.S. Olympic Training Center, both in Colorado Springs. 

“You're here because of your willingness to overcome great challenges … of injury [and] illness, both seen and unseen, coupled with the challenges that any superior athlete must overcome in achieving greatness,” Winnefeld told the athletes. 

This is the third year Winnefeld has provided opening or closing remarks for the Warrior Games, but he remains awed by the athletes and their challenges, he said. 

“Your heroism and determination are an inspiration,” he said to the athletes. “… When I face a seemingly insurmountable challenge, I just think of you, and my day becomes a very nice day.” 

Winnefeld expressed his appreciation to Britain’s Prince Harry for attending the games. He was among those on the stage, and was dressed in his British army camouflage uniform. 

"We’re so grateful that you brought your fellow warriors from the United Kingdom to be in these games,” Winnefeld told the prince. “We thank the United Kingdom for being such fantastic partners in combat, from one warrior to another.” 

The general also credited the United Kingdom for conceiving and hosting last summer’s London 2012 Paralympic Games, in which U.S. service members also competed. 

The vice chairman recognized “other elite groups of people” in the audience -- the athletes’ families, friends, caregivers. 

Winnefeld also praised “the spouses, moms, dads and siblings who unselfishly dropped everything else in their lives to become dedicated caregivers. It’s very hard work, is often overlooked, and you are very special people.” 

The athletes and the games become better each year because of the volunteers, hosts and sponsors, “without whom these events simply would not be possible,” Winnefeld said. 

“What you're doing is powerful, and very important,” he added. 

Addressing the British and American teams, Winnefeld noted that the Warrior Games embody the “magnificent cause of freedom and liberty.” Each athlete at the games is already a winner, he added. 

“Compete ferociously, fairly, safely, and pick each other up. That's what these games are all about,” he said, adding that the athletes should compete with the Olympic ideals of excellence, respect and friendship constantly on their minds. 

“And yes, may the best team win, but remember, we're all on the incredibly great, same team,” Winnefeld said.