Written by Whitney Delbridge Nichels
Warrior Care and Transition
Chicago, IL – Excitement filled the air as buses full of athletes rolled into the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place in downtown Chicago, escorted by Patriot Guard riders and American flags.
It was a fitting entrance for Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and the United States Special Operations Command service members hoping to represent their teams in a big way as they compete in wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball, track, field, cycling, swimming, shooting and archery at the 2017 DoD Warrior Games hosted by the United States Navy.Thirty-eight athletes will be competing for Team Army. Just ahead of the opening ceremony on June 30th, some athletes were getting pumped to see performers Blake Shelton and Kelly Clarkson, as well as second-time host Jon Stewart.
“Seeing the accommodations and hearing that singers and celebrities will be in attendance, it’s definitely exciting,” said Spc. Mitchell Bombeck, first time Warrior Games participant from the Fort Campbell, Kentucky Warrior Transition Battalion.
Most took the opportunity to get settled and prepare their minds before the competition begins.
“For the first day or so, we’ll just be relaxing and catching up with everyone,” said Sgt. Chris McGinnis after greeting a fellow Warrior Games participant.
While many of the athletes flew into Chicago’s major airports, a few took the opportunity to enjoy an old-fashioned road trip.
Col. Daniel Dudek and Sgt. 1st Class David Iuli drove 30 hours from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. Iuli admits he had initial concerns about the length of the trip, but after hitting the road with his Army teammate, the trek quickly became an adventure.
“It was fun and relaxing. Thanks to him [Dudek] and his history knowledge, I’m a Lewis and Clark buff now,” Iuli laughed.
“I loved it,” said Dudek. “Just watching the sun come up in Montana, and there’s still snow on a lot of the mountain tops. It’s so soothing.”
With their minds centered, the athletes say they’re ready to get their game faces on.
“I’m competing in multiple sports, so it takes a lot of physical preparation,” said Bombeck. “But mentally, I try not to think about the competition too much. I’m just going to go out there and give it my all.”