By Janet Foutty:
By design, sporting events are demonstrations of perseverance. Competitors endure pressure-cooker conditions on the playing field. Coaches strategize on the best way to outmaneuver the other team. Throughout a race, match or individual event, athletes’ endurance is put to the test.
Our nation’s armed forces members and veterans know that type of determination well. And for those who have been wounded, fallen ill or suffered injuries on duty, resilience often comes with deeper meaning as they transition to civilian life.
Last month, at the U.S. Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Va., 250 military athletes competed in the 2015 Department of Defense (DoD) Warrior Games. This year marked the sixth for the competition, organized for service members whose medical conditions, injuries and wounds qualify them for varying degrees of adaptive sports. For the second year in a row, I had the honor of spending time with participants.
Think of the DoD Warrior Games as you would the Olympic Games, on a smaller scale, but with the same spirit of competition and display of athletic ability. Participants competed in archery, cycling and track competitions. They also played wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball. The athletes passed local and regional trials to qualify for the national event. That’s not to mention the immense physical and emotional difficulties that accompanied so many of them on their path to the DoD Warrior Games.
The connection between sports and the transition to civilian life for our armed forces personnel is clear: programs such as the DoD Warrior Games meet the physical and emotional needs of these women and men. They also underscore how our wounded, ill and injured service members continue to contribute in society.
There’s Will Reynolds, a U.S. Army veteran and senior consultant in Deloitte’s Federal practice, who was one of two individuals from our company to compete in this year’s event. Will has been an adaptive sports participant since 2005, after he was wounded a year earlier during combat in Iraq. Will endured two years of treatment and 23 surgeries. He competed in cycling and track events, and says participating in sports has helped his recovery and rehabilitation.
And there’s Sean Walsh, also a senior consultant for Deloitte. A swimmer in high school and college, Sean competed in the cycling, track, and swimming events this year, his first time in the competition.
Before the DoD Warrior Games and before joining Deloitte, Sean served in the U.S. Army for seven years and was a member of the Special Operations Command (SOCOM). While deployed overseas, he became ill and developed Type 1 Diabetes.
As Sean points out, events such as the DoD Warrior Games enable many of our veterans to maintain valuable links to their service. As corporate leaders, we also must do everything we can to help our armed forces members meet their physical, emotional and economic needs.
That means ensuring that wounded, ill and injured service members get access to proper care. It means guaranteeing physical therapy to help them rebuild strength so they can participate in activities they choose.
In addition to health and recovery, education and employment are also key to reintegration into society. Deloitte is just one of many firms that has redoubled its efforts in veteran hiring, recognizing that our armed forces members bring invaluable skills, knowledge and insights to our companies.
As Sean reminds us, through military service, “you’ve been trained to push the envelope, you can do anything.” And the service members I met during the competition so bravely displayed what Sean summed up as the spirit of the event: “Sports is so important to regaining your sense of self.”
The 2015 DoD Warrior Games included teams from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and U.S. Special Operations Command, as well as members of the British Armed Forces. More information is available here.
Janet Foutty is a principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP and the Federal Government Services leader.