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U.S. Navy Operations Specialist 3rd Class Melissa Klotz, an athlete with Team Navy, bikes towards the lap marker while competing in the upright division cycling competition at the 2016 Department of Defense Warrior Games, June 18. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kiona Miller/Released)
U.S. Navy Operations Specialist 3rd Class Melissa Klotz, an athlete with Team Navy, bikes towards the lap marker while competing in the upright division cycling competition at the 2016 Department of Defense Warrior Games, June 18. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kiona Miller/Released)

Veterans and Wounded Warriors: An inspiration to us all

By Vice Adm. Dixon Smith
Commander, Navy Installations Command

This past weekend, I had the distinct privilege of representing our Navy in the city of Chicago for Veterans Day. This was my first opportunity to really take in all that the city has to offer, and it is clear to me that the decision to host the 2017 Department of Defense Warrior Games there next summer was the right choice.

Vice Adm. Dixon Smith discusses the 2017 Department of Defense (DoD) Warrior Games during an interview with ABC7 in Chicago. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)
Vice Adm. Dixon Smith discusses the 2017 Department of Defense (DoD) Warrior Games during an interview with ABC7 in Chicago. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

Throughout the day, I met with veterans, city officials, business leaders and local news media representatives, where I found the energy and enthusiasm to be truly inspiring. Equally energizing was the opportunity to discuss the 2017 Warrior Games at Veterans Day events at the historic Navy Pier and Soldier Field. I had the opportunity to conduct several media engagements, both television and radio, where my goal was to ensure the citizens of Chicago knew when and where to be to support our wounded heroes during the event next summer.

One wounded warrior I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know over the past few months, A.J. Mohammed, attended the events. Every time I speak with him I’m reminded of how important the Wounded Warrior program and the DoD Warrior Games truly are. Following his tour of duty in Iraq in 2004, he returned home visually impaired. Integrating back into society was a challenge and doing anything in public became difficult, to the point where he never left the house. Several individuals reached out to let him know of the Navy’s wounded warrior and adaptive sports programs, and dedicated their time to help A.J. get back on his feet. The commitment of friends and family to help him find his way, combined with the ability to participate in adaptive sports, as he put it, ‘saved’ him. He will be one of the many warriors to compete for a spot on the Navy team next summer.

These wounded warriors will showcase their athletic prowess at several key Chicago landmarks next summer, including Soldier Field, McCormick Place Convention Center, the United Center, University of Illinois at Chicago, and Lane Tech Academy. Plans are well underway and we are committed to providing an awesome and rewarding experience for the athletes and their families.

Members of the public from far and wide are encouraged to attend the Games to see and get to know these inspiring athletes who have given so much on our behalf. Their stories will leave you in awe, and they deserve our utmost respect.

U.S. Navy Chief Gunner's Mate Jeannette Tarqueno, an athlete with Team Navy, prepares to dive into a pool during a swimming competition inside Arvin Gym at the U.S. Military Academy located in West Point, New York as part of the 2016 Department of Defense Warrior Games, June 20. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kiona Miller/Released)
U.S. Navy Chief Gunner’s Mate Jeannette Tarqueno, an athlete with Team Navy, prepares to dive into a pool during a swimming competition inside Arvin Gym at the U.S. Military Academy located in West Point, New York as part of the 2016 Department of Defense Warrior Games, June 20. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kiona Miller/Released)

In order to host the most rewarding experience possible for our athletes and their families, we must work together with many partners. Just this last week, we received word that Boeing and Fisher House Foundation will be our presenting sponsors, which is great news. Without them, the games would not be possible.

The DoD Warrior Games will be held June 30 through July 8, 2017, and information about the event is available now on our website. We’ll continue to update information there as plans solidify.

In closing, as we head into the holiday season and give thanks for the many blessings we have, please take a moment to remember our veterans and wounded warriors for the sacrifices they have made on behalf of our nation, today and every day. They are an inspiration to us all.

Editor’s note: Neither the Navy nor the federal government endorses any business, products or services.

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