Four U.S. Navy recovering service members from Naval District Washington (NDW) traveled to Norfolk, Va. to compete in the 2014 Wounded Warrior Team Navy Trials, June 1-7.
Seaman Katriana Durakovich, Ship’s Serviceman 2nd Class Tadjossi Fawiye, Chief Logistics Specialist Averill Malone, and Lt. Valerie Eichelberger represented the NDW region at the trials, and competed against 61 other Sailors and Coast Guardsmen with hopes of gaining positions on the 40-person Team Navy at the 2014 Warrior Games in Colorado later this year.
Sailors and Coast Guardsmen suffering from combat wounds and long-term injuries and illnesses competed in a variety of adaptive sports at the weeklong trials event, including archery, track and field, wheelchair basketball, cycling, shooting and seated volleyball.
“The common thread is that they’re all dealing with challenges,” said Cmdr. Dante Terronez, NDW regional director, Navy Wounded Warrior—Safe Harbor program, whether those challenges are physical disabilities or other issues such as post-traumatic stress.
Team selections from the trials have not been made yet, so it is unclear if any of the NDW athletes achieved one of the 40 positions open for the team at the Warrior Games, but Terronez said he thinks the team competed well. More important, he added, is the therapeutic nature of just going to the trials and competing.
“Probably the most important thing is they meet other people in their same situation that are coping with their disease or injury or wounds,” he said. “They draw strength off one another and lessons from their common experiences. It gives them a chance to connect and network.”
Beyond meeting other service members from across the country, each of the athletes also had a sponsor and they were helped by a large staff of organizers and volunteers during their time at the trials.
The games were challenging, Terronez said, but offered a safe environment where the athletes could push themselves and be competitive on a level playing field.
“It’s very much balanced and crafted so people can get the maximum competitive piece out of it, but at the same time, feel like somebody is understanding and caring about their situation,” Terronez said.”They care about their physical and mental health and the challenges they have to deal with.”
As the annual games continue, Terronez said building command support for the team and the larger Navy Wounded Warrior program is key to helping athletes through the intensive process of getting through the trials and onto Team Navy, as well as growing the pool of athletes.
For any service member thinking about trying out for the program, Terronez said his team looked at the trials as a powerful experience where they shared camaraderie and competition.
Navy Wounded Warrior—Safe Harbor is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and provides non-medical rehabilitation and reintegration support to recovering Sailors and Coast Guardsmen and their family members. The annual team trials are jointly sponsored by Navy Wounded Warrior—Safe Harbor and Commander, Navy Region Mid-Atlantic.
For more information on the program or enrollment eligibility, call Navy Wounded Warrior—Safe Harbor at 855-NAVY WWP (628-9997), or email firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about the 2014 Wounded Warrior Team Navy Trials, visit http://safeharbor.navylive.dodlive.mil.