Games' athletes inspire First Lady
BY ALAN ABRAHAMSON
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Army Staff Sgt. Krisell Creager-Lumpkins suffered a brain injury in 2010. She'll be competing in five events at this week's Warrior Games presented by Deloitte in Colorado Springs, Colo., and says, "I want to show other wounded, ill and injured soldiers that your injuries don't define you. They amplify you."
Navy Lt. Brad Snyder, blinded in September in an explosion in Afghanistan, is a swimmer and a runner. He says, "I'm not going to let blindness build a brick wall around me. I'd give my eyes 100 times again to have the chance to do what I have done, and what I can still do."
Marine Capt. John Disbro was wounded in Iraq in 2004. After 18 surgeries on his foot and ankle, his leg and ankle were amputated below the knee. He is now the Games' reigning "ultimate champion" for his performance in swimming, shooting, sprinting, hiking and the shot-put.
"Whew," the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, standing at the lectern on another beautiful sunny day in Colorado Springs, Colo., said with her usual radiant smile. "I'm tired just mentioning all that."
The First Lady traveled Monday to the Springs to kick off the third edition of the Warrior Games presented by Deloitte, an event that this year will attract more than 200 wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans. Competition runs through May 5.
This year's Games, underwritten in significant part by Deloitte, is the third. It is growing into a progressively bigger and bigger deal. The Brits are even sending a team this year, 20 strong, to compete in five events -- archery, cycling, swimming, track and field and sitting volleyball.
As Scott Blackmun, the chief executive of the U.S. Olympic Committee, pointed out to the roughly 1,600 people in the crowd, "We're proud to be here from the inspiration that will flow."
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, was among those joining Mrs. Obama, and Blackmun, on stage.
Clearly, the chairman has plenty of things on his plate. But there he was -- and he made a point of saying that he was "thrilled" to be there, that the Games served multiple, and powerful, purposes.
They proved the power of ability over disability, a "collective and personal revival through sports," he said. Moreover, an event like the Warrior Games also serves as a "military family reunion," and the import of that is not to be discounted.
Mrs. Obama spoke for 10 minutes.
"Every competitor here has faced adversity that most of us can never imagine," she said, adding a moment later, "You are inspiring all of us to dig just a little deeper, to work just a little harder, to strive for something that seems maybe just too far out of reach."
The First Lady then switched gears ever so slightly and all but announced the points she hopes to make while leading the delegation in just under three months to London, to the 2012 Olympics.
Mrs. Obama has of course -- through her "Let's Move!" initiative -- sought to get American kids off the couch.
"You can inspire these kids to get active," she said Monday. "You can inspire them to overcome obstacles. You can inspire them to achieve things they never dreamed of. And that's going to be my message as I head to London this summer, to lead the presidential delegation to the opening ceremony to the Olympic Games.
"It's really going to be a focus on our kids. I'm going to emphasize that competitions like the Olympics, the Paralympics and the Warrior Games aren't just about who wins the gold or who sets a new record. They're about getting involved and working together. They're about competing fairly. And triumphing over adversity. They're also about how service and patriotism aren't simply words or symbols -- they're the choices you make and the way you live your lives."