May 10, 2012 —
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. - The focus of the Warrior Games has always been the wounded warriors who are competing, but they’re not the only warriors participating in the popular event.
Military volunteers from throughout the area flocked to the games April 29 – May 5 to support their wounded brethren, so many, in fact, that there weren’t enough spaces for all of them.
“We had a tremendous turnout of volunteers this year,” said Rich Cardillo, Warrior Games volunteer coordinator. “Unfortunately, I can’t use everybody.”
Cardillo said volunteer numbers for the Warrior Games have exploded since the first games in 2010, with 400 people volunteering this year, approximately half of them military members. Cardillo said the games couldn’t happen without them.
“An event like this is impossible to execute without volunteers,” he said. “Some have a vested interest. They have family members who came home from the conflict wounded, and they just want to repay in some fashion and they do it through volunteering.”
Tech. Sgt. Melissa Simpson, 21st Aerospace Medicine Squadron, volunteered at the shooting and archery events this year. She said meeting members of the Wounded Warrior Project in Iraq last year made her want to come out and volunteer.
“When I heard there was a Wounded Warrior sponsored program coming here, I was excited to have the same opportunity to meet great people who served their country and get to help out in a way you normally don’t get to,” she said.
Cardillo said the big draw for military volunteers is the “family aspect.” He said that, as a military retiree himself, he knows military members see themselves as family.
“We’re all a big family in the military,” he said. “And when you have family members participating in a competition like this, you want to come out and help.”
Simpson said volunteering is a way to help the Warrior Games’ competitors continue to each serve their country, this time as examples.
“They want to be back in our shoes,” she said. “They want to serve their country in the way they did before. But now they’ve found a new love and serve in a different way, and I want to support them.”
Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Diana King, NORAD and USNORTHCOM Maritime Strategies Concepts action officer, has volunteered two years in a row. She said watching the Wounded Warriors compete puts things in perspective.
“They’re working so hard,” she said. “And if you can do just that little bit to give them a hand, it’s rewarding. Most of the time, they don’t need it. They’re determined to do it on their own.”