Oct 2021 Vol. 5
Warrior Games History
In 2009, Navy Safe Harbor Foundation (NSHF) was happy to step up when the Navy identified a need for NGO support covering the non-medical financial needs not provided through government funds for Sailors and their families enrolled in the Navy Wounded Warrior Program (NWWP). Family support was NSHF’s founding program and covered such things as family travel for caregiving, rent and mortgage assistance, educational support, and childcare help among other needs. In 2013, NSHF added support of the medically retired athletes preparing for and attending the Warrior Games to its programs.
The Warrior Games were established in 2010, when the Department of Defense (DOD) invited service members and veterans from all services to join in a Paralympic style competition, with the goal of enhancing resiliency, team building, and pride in personal accomplishment. The DOD, teaming with the U.S. Olympic Committee, held the games at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO for the first 4 years. Hosting honors then began a yearly rotation between the services. The games were held continuously through 2019. While the games were scheduled in both 2020 and 2021, the hosting service canceled the games in order to protect the athletes and their families from COVID-19.
Like the Olympic and Paralympic Games, service members participate in training and trials prior to being chosen to represent Team Navy. Training camps are held at Port Hueneme, CA beginning in January and continue through Spring, culminating in Trials where athletes compete and are selected for a position on the team. NSHF supports the veteran athletes taking part by providing transportation, accommodations, and meals for each step on their road to the games.
Each year the games have grown both in number of athletes participating and in the variety of sports available in which they can compete. In 2013, NSHF supported eight athletes on their journey to the games, and in 2021, prior to cancelation, 23 athletes were assisted with their training. Through 2016, eight sports were on the agenda including archery, cycling, track and field, seated volleyball and wheelchair basketball. In 2019, an additional six sports, indoor rowing, powerlifting, golf, wheelchair tennis and rugby, and time-trial cycling, were added for a total of 14 sporting activities.
We could not be prouder of our veterans and their families as they achieve their goals, and we are proud that the financial support NSHF is able to provide helps make that possible. The stories they share with us of their accomplishments are inspiring and prove our mission—and your donations—make a difference.
Thoughts from our Board
Rear Admiral Christopher Cole, USN (Ret.)
After the cancellation of the Warrior Games last year everyone was especially looking forward to this year’s Games at Disney World in Florida. And by everyone, I mean the warriors, the warrior families, the staff from all the services, and both military and civilian leadership. So, it was a heart breaker for everyone when this year’s games were cancelled. Certainly, there are many good reasons, but still it is disappointing to all those involved.
As a member of the Navy Safe Harbor Foundation Board, I have attended most of the Warrior Games since 2013, including those at the Olympic Training Center and the Air Force Academy in Colorado, the Marine Corps Base Quantico; the Military Academy at West Point; and downtown Chicago. I have also observed training for the warrior games at the Navy training sites in San Diego, Mayport, and Bethesda. Watching the training and the competition is extraordinary.
The team events have been very popular with everyone. Because of that popularity Wheelchair Basketball and Seated Volleyball are the final events at the games, drawing large, noisy crowds. Members of each team come from all over the country and the teamwork and spirit that develops is amazing, especially since the teams get to practice together only a few times during the year. In many ways the individual events are even more exciting because there are no teammates to help the competitors. It’s one on one.
Watching and meeting the competitors at the warrior games is truly memorable, but there is even more in meeting the families and caregivers. They are key to the success of each competitor. Because it is not necessarily winning or losing that’s important. The key is in getting in there and competing, and the families and caregivers are a huge part of that. So, let’s hope next year the stars will align and Warrior Games 2022 will be the best.
RADM Cole & Chief Raina Hockenberry (2019)
A Warrior’s Story
Joshua Cooke describes himself as a people person, active, and positive. He will tell you how he has always been into sports and how as he was growing-up he simply moved from one seasonal sport to the next. For him, sports meant more than winning; it meant a team, a support system, and a physical outlet. Today, he adds that sports are a lifeline for him.
Joshua followed his grandfather’s example and joined the Navy in 2015, becoming an Interior Communications Electrician. Following training in San Diego, he received orders to Hawaii and was assigned to a cruiser for sea duty. Three years passed as he established his career and developed a support system in his new home. As you can imagine, the beauty of Hawaii lent itself to many hours spent in the sun playing his favorite sports with his teammates.
In 2018, while on active duty and stationed in Hawaii, Joshua was jumped and badly beaten causing cardiac arrest, and leaving him with a traumatic brain injury. Thanks to a passing nurse, CPR was started immediately, and he was transported to Tripler Army Medical Center where he spent 3 days in a coma followed by 8 days of inpatient care. Joshua remembers very little of that time and cannot share a firsthand account of his experience. He knows his story through friends who came upon him after the beating and strangers who witnessed some of the violence. What he does know firsthand is the aftermath, the hours and days and months that have led to today.
Following his initial treatment and recovery period, Joshua was transitioned into an outpatient treatment program at Tripler for continuing care and focused rehabilitation. Months went by, filled with doctor’s appointments, evaluations, and testing. He struggled with stability issues, communication and memory deficits, lack of taste and smell, emotional instability, and insomnia. Joshua was almost immediately enrolled in the Navy Wounded Warrior Program and through that program, introduced to available adaptive athletic opportunities. Initially Joshua felt that because he appeared “normal” to the average observer he could not play in the sporting activities offered to him against athletes with more obvious athletic challenges. It was not until Master Chief Petty Officer Hockenberry, herself a wounded warrior, encouraged and cajoled him to attend an introductory camp.
At that first camp he learned what it took to participate in wheelchair basketball & rugby, seated volleyball, indoor rowing, and powerlifting. He was encouraged and challenged by all the wounded warriors and found those athletes who had more apparent injuries drove him to do his very best. Through the training camps and trials, Joshua found camaraderie and support with Sailors who were all experiencing similar life changes. Initially selected as an alternate for Team Navy, he was asked to join as a participating athlete when a teammate had to drop out. He feels that those games were a turning point for him and gave him the knowledge that he still had it in him to compete. This year he took on the role of mentor to the “newbie” athletes attending their introductory camp in July. While he was very disappointed that the 2021 Warrior Games were canceled due to COVID-19, he has already moved on to planning and preparing for his place on the 2022 team.
Joshua credits the support of his family, his Navy Wounded Warrior family and the assistance he received from Navy Safe Harbor Foundation for his ability to participate in the Warrior Games and his return to life as an athlete.
Travel for A Good Cause!
NSHF Travel Packages.
Don’t Miss Your Chance to Purchase a Special Vacation Package for Two People
Support our Sailors and their Families.
We are honored that our efforts have been recognized by the American Fundraising Foundation. AmFund sponsored us by bringing 11 fantastic trips for you to purchase in our special “Trips of a Lifetime Silent Auction” for our 11th annual golf tournament, which was held on August 9, 2021! We are extending this offer for each of the trips provided by AmFund to us this year. Each trip represents a donation to NSHF while giving you a great deal on a wonderful trip of a lifetime!! Now we have been provided special permission to offer the trips that were at our event, to everyone, as a “Second Chance” to get a trip! The trips may be purchased as gifts or corporate incentives as well. Take a look at all 11 available trips here.
Each vacation package includes:
Roundtrip Airfare (for 2) Main Cabin upgradable
Deluxe Accommodations. (4 & 5-star)
Personal Travel Reservationist
You will have 3 full Years to take the trip- with no blackout dates
Call Barbara @ AmFund 407-895-8000 to claim your trip:
or email [email protected]
And Support our Sailors!
Warrior Games Fact:
Prince Harry attended the Warrior Games in 2013, in Colorado. He was so impressed with the competition he returned to the U.K. and organized the Invictus Games. The first tournament was held in 2014.