WASHINGTON – The 2015 Department of Defense Warrior Games concluded with a ceremony yesterday at Butler Stadium, an open-air venue at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia, that serves as parade ground and athletic arena.
As the hosting service, the Marine Corps choreographed an event to remember. The Games brought together 250 military athletes -- most of them previously wounded, ill or injured on duty -- who have retrained their minds and bodies through adaptive sports.
Saluting the Warrior Spirit
A Marine Corps marching band in red and white, playing brass instruments and drums, set the pace, stepping complex patterns on the field.
Then the color guard, made up of representatives from the participating nations and services, paraded their flags, with the United Kingdom’s “Union Jack” making a brave showing next to the military flags and the stars and stripes of the United States.
Athletes who had competed in the Games throughout the 10-day gathering stood or sat at attention facing the flags. After the color guard cleared the field, dark-jacketed Marines with bayoneted rifles marched onto the grass, taking up a formation facing the crowd.
The ceremony progressed as the riflemen began a demonstration of drill and ceremony precision and skill, with rifles spinning as they were tossed and exchanged through the air. In both facing squad-style elements and the extended line, the gloved experts never slipped.
The Force Behind the Games
Then the commandant took the field: Marine Corps Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr. approached the podium for his remarks.
“It’s been an absolute honor” to host the games, he said, before greeting the many senior leaders and spouses in attendance. Dunford said each of the services placed “exactly the right amount of emphasis on this to make the Games a success.”
The general then addressed the “very important people: the athletes, the families, the caregivers and the coaches.”
When the Games opened, he said, he had noted that the success of the competition would be judged by the quality of their experience.
“This week’s games have truly been about the wounded, the injured, the ill men and women who have adapted and overcome extraordinary challenges. … Thanks for inspiring us with your courage, your spirit and your resilience,” the commandant said.
“I hope you enjoyed the competition, and the camaraderie,” he continued. “I hope you depart Quantico recommitted to stay in the attack, and I hope you’ve been reminded that the family represented by the men and women that are here in uniform tonight are your family forever.”
The general went to detail some of the operational planning behind the Games. Just over 90 days before the games, he said, a “pickup team” -- led by Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Juan G. Ayala and including 70 service members working on logistics alone -- started putting the Warrior Games together.
“This week, we saw heat, rainstorms and other friction that tested their flexibility, their imagination and, quite frankly, their sense of humor,” he said. “In every case, they made it happen.”