Tampa, Fla. --
The Department of Defense Warrior Games consist of hundreds of athletes, who represent their respective branches of service, including our combined service members representing their countries.
Welcomed by the Tampa Bay community, the DoD Warrior Games events were also enjoyed by the families of the athletes.
“Preparing for [Warrior Games] started as what I thought was an excuse for my husband to go away to care events,” according to Dominique Oneal-Greene, spouse of Air Force Reserve Citizen Airman, Staff Sgt. Kevin Greene, assigned to the 920th Air Rescue Wing, Patrick Air Force Base, Florida. “It wasn’t until about six-months later when I attended an event with him, that I realized it was so much more than that.”
“As I became involved, I realized that we had so many benefits and resources offered to us as we worked through this recovery process,” she added.
The DoD has programs across each service to support the wounded and injured members as well as the families that support their service members. The U.S. Air Force’s program, the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program, coordinated by Gen. David Goldfein, Air Force Chief of Staff.
On a visit to the Warrior Games in Tampa, FL, Gen. Goldfein spoke with Air Force athletes and their families. “There’s this old saying, ‘Age wrinkles the body but quitting wrinkles the soul,” said Goldfein.
“And while all of us grow older, not all of us grow stronger as we age. The athletes and warriors we celebrate this week show us how to grow stronger over time as they conquer the daily challenges in mind, in body, in spirit. Warrior Games athletes are not defined by illness, injury or the invisible wounds of war. They’re defined by their courage, their determination, their grit, their resilience and their friends and family who cheer them on here and at home,” he added.
“This is incredible,” according to Kathy Burns, mother of Marine Corps MSG Donald Burns. “The marine corps is a large organization but seeing all of these branches of service and each service members working together is amazing, these guys and gals, no matter what they need are first welcomed by their individual service, and from there on no matter their rank or service, they are just brothers”.
The DoD Warrior Games represent more than military service members and veterans, the representation from the Family Support Program encourages family support to facilitate warrior recovery.
“This was my first time competing in the warrior games. My injuries aren’t visible, they aren’t what most people think about when they hear ‘disabled military veteran’, but it is real to me and these games and the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program has changed my life,” said Melissa Nueva, U.S. Air Force veteran and Warrior Games athlete. “The support staff that has assisted my family and I prior to these games allowed me to be prepared and give it my all.”
USSOCOM hosted Warrior Games this year and they appointed U.S. Air Force Reserve Citizen Airman, Tech. Sgt. Kay Carbon to head the family program and ensure all athletes and families are supported throughout the games.
“My position for the games this year is to be a liaison between the DoD and the Fisher House Foundation and what they bring to the table as far as the family program,” said Carbon, who is also assigned to the 927th Air Refueling Wing, MacDill Air Force Base, Florida. “The family program encompasses the support that Fisher House provides getting the families to the games and ensuring they are not coming out-of-pocket for any expense while their warrior is competing, not for travel, lodging, or meals.”
The relationships built during these events build a lifetime bond for the families here. The tools we provide are essential, but it is also important to emphasize the comfort and compassion that they provide one another that lasts a lifetime,” she added.
“When Kay talks about family, it’s not just about the blood family. Within the family programs, we meet and spend a lot of time with the families and friends of the other athletes and wounded warriors”, said Richard Nueva, spouse of Melissa Nueva and himself a retired Air Force veteran. “We have our own walk in life we are handling, now that we are retired we have the ability to learn from these families and learn their walks to better benefit our family; thanks to the family care programs.”