Navy Scores First Medals at DoD Warrior Games

A participant in the Cycling competition of the 2015 Department of Defense (DoD) Warrior Games enters his final lap at Lejeune Hall Lot, Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Diana Sims/Released)
A participant in the Cycling competition of the 2015 Department of Defense (DoD) Warrior Games enters his final lap at Lejeune Hall Lot, Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Diana Sims/Released)

QUANTICO, Va. -- Team Navy captured four cycling medals to kick off competition at the DoD Warrior Games at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia, June 21. 

Senior Chief Petty Officer Ryan "Austin" Reese of Virginia Beach, Virginia, won the silver medal in the men's handcycle MH5 competition. His teammate, Chief Petty Officer Javier Rodriguez Santiago (Ret.) of Saint Cloud, Florida, took home the bronze medal.

This is Rodriquez Santiago's third DoD Warrior Games, and his experience was especially helpful during the competition. 

"I know a lot of the guys; I know how they race," he said. "I wanted to stay ahead of those who I knew are faster than me. Once I saw that I passed a couple of them, I thought, 'Yes! I can keep going!'" 

Rodriquez Santiago is also competing in sitting volleyball and wheelchair basketball.

Reese, who has served in the Navy as an explosive ordnance disposal technician (EOD) for 13 years, said, "Adaptive sports have given me a sense of purpose and also a feeling of competition again. It makes me feel very proud that I'm able to represent my service and also the other team members who are not able to compete." 

Reese will also participate in swimming and track and field events.

Chief Petty Officer Leticia Baugher (Ret.) of Independence, Missouri, won the bronze medal in women's recumbent cycling. 

She is a newcomer to the DoD Warrior Games, and had a rather modest objective for her first year participating. 

"When I started the race, my goal was to finish," said Baugher. "I never really thought I would get a medal. I exceeded my own expectations!" 

Baugher will also participate in track and field competitions.

Rounding out Team Navy's medal winners was Chief Petty Officer Hector Varela (Ret.) of Temecula, California, who won silver in the men's kneeling race, and proclaimed after the race: "I feel good!" 

He also is participating in sitting volleyball, field and wheelchair basketball competitions.

While the spectators helped motivate the athletes throughout the day, Team Navy's Lt. Cmdr. Scott Radetski (Ret.) of Poulsbo, Washington, shared another inspiration. 

Radetski wrote the names of two two fallen service members on his legs. "I'd like to ride for two guys: Ray Mendoza and Doug Zembiec, who were both Echo Company commanders with 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment," he said.

At the conclusion of the cycling races, the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) Para-Commandos parachuted in to begin the medals ceremony with an exciting display.

Following the cycling completion, Team Navy faced off against SOCOM in wheelchair basketball. All teams took part in a round-robin tournament on June 20, and Team Navy won two of the five games. 

"I know Team Navy is very excited to be in this bracket. They now have the opportunity to go for gold. I am anxious to see how they do; they are all extremely tired from the back-to-back wheelchair basketball games yesterday. Despite their exhaustion they are going to give it their best and that's why we're here, to support them and cheer them on," said Summer Simmons, wife of Team Navy member retired Navy Lt. Steve Simmons.

SOCOM scored first, but it did not take long for Navy's retired Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Brian Canich to swish the ball, placing the first points on the board for Team Navy. 

Ultimately, the Team Navy topped SOCOM 40 to 18, and it will advance in the bracket to play the Air Force, June 22.

Thirty-nine seriously wounded, ill and injured Sailors are competing on behalf of Team Navy this year. The Warrior Games are being held June 19-28. Approximately 250 wounded warrior athletes are participating in the competition.

Team Navy is sponsored by Navy Wounded Warrior (NWW) - Safe Harbor, the Navy and Coast Guard's wounded warrior support program. Team members have upper-body and/or lower-body injuries, spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, visual impairments, serious illnesses and post-traumatic stress. 

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