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2013 Warrior Games: the power of ability over disability

Major Scott Bullis smiles with Senior Master Sergeant Mike Sanders of the
U.S. Air Force.  The two competed in the Men's Recumbent Cycling Race and
crossed the finish line simultaneously for a shared silver medal.  The 2013
Warrior Games will kick off at the U.S. Air Force Academy, May 11 and run
through May 16. The games showcase the resilient spirit of today's wounded,
ill, or injured service members from all branches of the military.  After
overcoming significant injuries, these men and women demonstrate the power
of ability over disability and the spirit of competition. (U.S. Air Force
photo by SSgt Christopher Boitz)

The 2013 Warrior Games are May 11-16. The games showcase the resilient spirit of today's wounded, ill, or injured service members from all branches of the military. After overcoming significant injuries, these men and women demonstrate the power of ability over disability and the spirit of competition. (U.S. Air Force photo)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The 2013 Warrior Games start May 11 in Colorado Springs and run through May 16. The games showcase the resilient spirit of today's wounded, ill, or injured service members from all branches of the military. After overcoming significant injuries, these men and women demonstrate the power of ability over disability and the spirit of competition.

"The Warrior Games help get competitors back into the public's eye with a positive spin -- it highlights a Warrior's selflessness," said Maj. Scott Bullis, a Warrior Games coach and competitor.

Bullis is currently the Chief of Officer Development assigned to Air Force Space Command at Peterson AFB. He has been with the Warrior Games since it began in 2010. This will be his fourth year as the recumbent cycling coach and his second year competing in rifle shooting.

"Physical versus invisible wounds -- the disability is irrelevant. It's the service to our country that matters," said Bullis.

Warrior Games allows warriors to see past their circumstances, get involved and become active with likeminded competitors. It also allows them to draw on their similarities and establish support networks, not just for the games, but for life.

Since 2010, 260 wounded, ill, or injured service members and veterans have competed annually at the Warrior Games, a unique partnership between the Department of Defense and U.S. Olympic Committee Paralympics Military Program. Athletes compete in sitting volleyball, wheelchair basketball, swimming, cycling, track & field, archery and competitive shooting. Gold, silver and bronze medals are awarded to the athletes or team members who place first, second and third in their events.

As a coach, Bullis emphasizes making social and physical improvements over bringing home a medal. "I don't care about the medals," he said. "If you're here to participate just to win, that's the wrong focus. It doesn't matter if you bring something back around your neck -- it's going out and training that counts." He continued, "It's all about getting out and (Warriors) proving to themselves they can do it."

Lightheartedly though, he talked about the friendly competition that builds healthy, healing relationships. About his fellow competitor, retired Chief Master Sgt. Damian Orslene, he said, "I can beat him, and he can beat me....but no one else can beat us." This respected friendly rivalry is a part of the experience of building lifelong friendships and teammates, he said.

"By nature, just like the name, Warriors are extremely competitive. They get up, work their butt off and that gets them out doing things," Bullis said. "We've seen dramatic improvements in our Warriors." He stresses that communication and support are key.

"You never know what people can do until they get out of the chair and do it," said Bullis.

The focus of Warrior Games is different for everyone. Bullis says, "just getting out; changing that focus of what a Warrior perceives as problems" is the key. This year, Bullis' goals are "seeing all cyclists finish...that is what I want. Seeing everyone come together, new competitors and old, and no one getting hurt."

Bullis stays motivated and keeps others motivated through a deep passion just to ride. "It's painful to see my bike sitting in the garage," he says, remembering Colorado's cold weather.

He also recalls that "in past years, Warriors struggled with limited support. It shows in their performance. The support that we're building with each other, the local community and AFSPC is amazing. It helps with healing."

He says that seeing supporters in the stands makes a huge difference in performance; "It's nice to see a friendly face cheering you on."

It's not about self-glory. "The Warrior Games is about putting yourself aside and cheering each other on. That's exactly how we do it in the military," said Bullis.

He says since his traumatic brain injury as the result of a rocket propelled grenade impact on a vehicle he was driving in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sept. 13, 2011, his perspective has changed on a lot of things, "It's made me a better coach because now I understand that sometimes I need to explain things differently for others to understand."

"Not all Warriors are combat wounded; some are ill and injured," said Bullis. "We're just real people...with real injuries."

The 2013 Warrior Games is presented by Deloitte and is free and open to the public. The opening and closing ceremonies are by invitation only.

For the games schedule and more information go to: https://www.facebook.com/WarriorGames#!/WarriorGames/info or check out the website at: http://www.teamusa.org/WarriorGames/.

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