On January 17, 1991, seven months after Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded and tried to annex neighboring Kuwait, the world decided it had enough. Operation Desert Storm was launched that day, and Saddam was smacked down by a coalition of 39 countries.
Conducting this epic assault required bringing in Western airpower to destroy Hussein’s formidable armored corps of over 4,000 tanks. To open the way for other planes and choppers, eight Apaches and two Pave Low helicopters flew to Iraqi air defense sites and unleashed dozens of Hellfire missiles.
The sites and their operators were destroyed by the onslaught. See actual footage from the raid in this video from the Smithsonian Channel.
Military heroes aren’t all the spit-and-polish types like Gen. Robert E. Lee or Fleet Adm. Chester Nimitz. These five men were great leaders who also knew how to party with the best of them:
1. Fleet Adm. Ernest J. King
Fleet Adm. Ernest J. King was the man who took over the U.S. Navy on Dec. 23, 1941, just a few weeks after the Pacific fleet was crippled at Pearl Harbor and while the Atlantic fleet was hard-pressed fighting against Nazi subs. King was the Navy’s Dwight D. Eisenhower, carefully selecting strategies, technologies, and commanders to win the war at sea.
But King’s reputation wasn’t nearly as clean as his land-based counterpart. King was known for visiting other officers’ wives before and during the war as well as being the “d-mnest party man” in an illegal drinking club at the Navy’s flight school during Prohibition in 1927.
2. Gen. George Washington
We’ve previously discussed Gen. George Washington’s hard-partying habits, including his epic birthday bash at Valley Forge. He had refused a $15,000 annual salary for his services in the war, asking instead that Congress simply pick up his costs. Then he racked up $450,000 in expenses, a fair portion of which was rich food and booze.
But when a general wins a war against one of the world’s most powerful empires, things like Congress-funded parties tend to get swept under the rug. Congress readily paid the bill Washington racked up, and then begged him to please serve as president. But when he took that position, Congress gave him a salary and told him to pay for his parties on his own dime.
3. Maj. Gen. Ethan Allen
Maj. Gen. Ethan Allen was a huge part of America’s survival early in the Revolutionary War. He and his troops captured Forts Ticonderoga and Crown Point, allowing America to limit British movement in New York and prevent an invasion from Loyalist Canada.
But Allen’s route to heroism was an odd one. As a young man, he was kicked out of two communities, one in Conneticut and another in Massachusetts, for his hard drinking and profanity. He then settled into the Green Mountains and started a militia, the Green Mountain Boys, who knew him as much for his legendary binges as for his military leadership.
4. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant
Gen. Ulysses S. Grant entered the Civil War as a colonel but would be the General-in-Chief of the Union Army by war’s end. He won most of the battles he was in, at times through masterful strategy and tactics but occasionally by simply advancing his troops until Confederate units were overrun.
“The British Bulldog” in World War II cut the deals that got American equipment into the fight before the U.S. itself entered. He inspired his people and rallied them around the Union Jack and promised Hitler a vicious fight if he crossed the channel. British forces under his leadership pushed back against the Axis advance and eventually rolled into Berlin with the U.S. and Russia.
U.S. Marines arrived in Syria Wednesday to begin the first phase of President Donald Trump’s plan to expel the Islamic State from its capital of Raqqa, The Washington Post reports.
The Marines reportedly from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit based in San Diego will provide artillery support to the Syrian Democratic Forces, and accompanying U.S. special operators in the assault on the city. The type of artillery base must be within 20 miles of its intended target to be effective, the Post notes. Some infantry Marines accompanied the unit to provide force protection on the mission.
Trump, along with Secretary of Defense James Mattis, will also likely lift the current cap on U.S. special operators embedded with local forces in tandem with the deployment. The U.S. has approximately 500 special operators in the country currently. Their proposal would also include the use of U.S. attack helicopters, U.S. artillery, and increased arms sales to U.S.-backed forces.
The main recipient of U.S. aid and artillery support will likely be the Syrian Democratic Forces, an anti-ISIS force largely composed of Syrian Kurdish fighters. American reliance on Syrian Kurds will likely spark major tensions between the U.S. and Turkey, who regard the Kurdish forces as an existential threat on par with ISIS. The Kurdish forces have proven the only reliable, large-scale U.S.-backed force capable of fighting the terrorist group effectively.
New strategic plans for Raqqa are likely just a small facet of a new overall strategy to eradicate ISIS. Trump ordered a 30-day review of U.S. strategy, along with options to increase operations tempo, which the Pentagon delivered to the White House Monday.
“This plan is a political-military plan,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford told a think tank audience in late February. “The grievances of the [Syrian] civil war have to be addressed, the safety and humanitarian assistance that needs to be provided to people have to be addressed, and the multiple divergent stakeholders’ views need to be addressed.”
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Team Red, White Blue’s mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity. This effort is focused on bridging the civilian-military divide through a shared interest in physical activity like running, hiking, CrossFit workouts, and yoga classes, along with participating in social and service-oriented events. Spread across 199 chapters all over the world, the 110,000-member veteran’s group established in 2010 is geared toward creating a place for former servicemembers to meet and do a little PT — and invite their friends and family along to join them.
But while having lots of members and a host of chapters across the country is a great thing for a young veteran service organization, there’s a challenge in keeping it all connected. That’s why Executive Director Blayne Smith and his colleagues decided to link up with Team Red, White Blue’s various members with a little run among friends.
And what if this little run wasn’t so little? What if it spread across the entire country?
“We really wanted this to be a unifying event for the organization and to demonstrate the power and the inspiration that comes with a community of veterans working on an epic undertaking together,” Smith said. “We figured if we could run a single American flag averaging 60 miles a day … that would be a demonstration of the good that we could do together if we all worked together formed as a team and committed to a big goal.”
So in 2014, on a shoestring budget and with just a couple company reps doing most of the logistical legwork, the Old Glory Relay was born. Now spanning 4,216 miles and involving upwards of 1,300 runners and cyclists, the 2016 Old Glory Relay will see an American flag passed between participants — including veterans and their supporters — down the West Coast, across the desert Southwest, through the Deep South, and ending in Tampa, Florida, after 62 days culminating in a Ruck March on Veterans Day.
“For this year we decided to go even bigger. It’s a bit more ambitious, it’s a longer route but more members and more chapters will get to participate,” Smith said. “There’s something really powerful about running a few miles carrying an American flag. It’s really invigorating to run with it and hand it off to the next person knowing you’ve done your part to get it across the country.”
With the support of the presenting sponsor, Microsoft, along with other partners, Amazon, Westfield and Starbucks, the race began at the Space Needle in Seattle on Sept. 11. The relay will be following a route through Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles through the end of the month. The relay then turns east, through Phoenix, Tucson and San Antonio before crossing the South through the Florida Panhandle to Tampa.
Team Red, White Blue has done a ton of legwork to prepare for the relay, mobilizing local chapters to help carry the flag and get their communities energized to cheer runners along. Smith said school kids, local police and fire stations and residents along the way all turn out to motivate the runners and keep the relay going. And while the event is geared toward unifying the chapters and its members in a good cause, it’s the spirit of shared sacrifice and appreciation for the men in women who served in uniform that really makes the Old Glory Relay special.
“This is what happens when you slow people down enough to move on foot through a town with an American flag and see what happens. All those human connections start to happen,” Smith said. “America is a beautiful place. But the most beautiful terrain in America is the human terrain, and you don’t see it if you don’t slow down. And that’s what this is all about.”
You can support Team Red, White Blue and the Old Glory Relay by following the Old Glory Relay website, sharing your own photos and videos with the hashtag #OldGloryRelay, and by tracking Old Glory via the “OGR Live” webpage for up-to-the-minute information on the runners’ and cyclists’ status.
An amazing underwater graveyard near the Marshall Islands is filled with the eery remains of World War II aircraft, and these photographs from Brandi Mueller give us a closer look.
“They call it the ‘Airplane Graveyard,” Mueller, a scuba instructor, boat captain, and photographer, told the Daily Mail. “They aren’t war graves or planes that crashed. They were planes that were taken out over the reef and pushed off intact after the war ended.”
The U.S. dumped them after the war since it would’ve been too expensive to bring them back home. On the sea floor in the lagoon of Kwajalein Atoll rests approximately 150 planes and parts, which include F4U Corsairs, B-25 Mitchells, F4F Wildcats, and many more, according to Mueller.
“I find diving [to see] the airplanes really exciting,” Mueller told Mashable. “It’s a strange thing to see airplanes underwater. Shipwrecks you expect, but not airplanes.”
An Army soldier stationed in Germany picked up two Rolexes from the PX before rotating back to the states in early 1960. One watch was to wear himself while the other was a gift for his dad.
He had never heard of Rolex before and only bought them because his sergeant told him they were the best watches ever made. Almost 60 years later, both watches are still working and the sergeant’s advice turned out to be spot on.
The veteran recently appeared on PBS’s Antiques Roadshow and learned that one of the watches, which he paid a little over a month’s salary to buy in 1960, was “easily today, it’s $65,000 to 75,000 on the market.” See the full video from PBS below:
Our hearts go out to the lives lost and to everyone who were displaced and had their lives affected by Hurricane Harvey. I would like to dedicate this ‘Photos of the Week’ to all of the brave service members in Houston and the Texas Gulf Coast.
Of course, our troops are always training and are still fighting. This week, we will highlight how each branch is doing its part to aid in these troubling times.
Personnel from the 59th Medical Wing, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, prepare their equipment to accept patients at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas, in response to the devestation caused by Hurricane Harvey, August 30, 2017. The 59th MDW is part of a larger Department of Defense presence in an effort to aid eastern Texas following a record amount of rainfall and flooding.
Brian Archibald, a rescue specialist assigned to the South Carolina Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team Delta in McEntire Joint National Guard Base, S.C., points to a someone who may need help August 31, 2017 in Port Arthur, Texas. The SC-HART are specialized in search and rescue and are capable of recovering people in distress.
Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Class Richard Call and members of New Jersey Task Force 1, assist evacuees into a Light Medium Tactical Vehicle (LMTV) to during water rescue operations in Wharton, Texas, Aug. 31, 2017, due to devastating effects caused by Hurricane Harvey’s aftermath. Harvey made landfall into the Texas coast last week as a category 4 hurricane.
U.S. Army Sgt. Daniel Carnahan (front) and Staff Sgt. Tym Larson, Detachment 2, Golf Company, 2nd Battalion, 238th Regiment, crew members of a UH-60 “Blackhawk”, strap down cargo, Seguin Artillery Airfield, Tx., Aug. 30, 2017. This crew is taking Meals-Ready-to-Eat to those affected by Hurricane Harvey.
An MH-53E Sea Dragon assigned to the HM-15, Naval Station Norfolk, Va, flies over Houston, Texas, Aug. 31, 2017. Hurricane Harvey formed in the Gulf of Mexico and made landfall in southeastern Texas, bringing record flooding and destruction to the region. U.S. military assets supported FEMA as well as state and local authorities in rescue and relief efforts.
U.S. Navy AWSC Phillip Freer, assigned to the HM-14, Naval Station Norfolk, Va, guides a forklift loading a pallet of water onto an MH-53E Sea Dragon for Hurricane Harvey relief support at Katy, Texas, Aug. 31, 2017. Hurricane Harvey formed in the Gulf of Mexico and made landfall in southeastern Texas, bringing record flooding and destruction to the region. U.S. military assets supported FEMA as well as state and local authorities in rescue and relief efforts.
A Marine with Charlie Company, 4th Reconnaissance Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve, along with a member of the Texas Highway Patrol and Texas State Guard, escort a man to higher ground, Houston, Texas, Aug. 31, 2017. Hurricane Harvey landed Aug. 25, 2017, flooding thousands of homes and displaced over 30,000 people.
Marines with Company C, 4th Assault Amphibian Battalion, 4th Marine Division, load Hurricane Harvey victims aboard Amphibious Assault Vehicles during rescue operations and immediate response missions in response to Hurricane Harvey at Galveston, Texas, Aug. 31, 2017. The Marines and Sailors with Marine Forces Reserve are posturing ground, air and logistical assets as part of the Department of Defense support to FEMA, state and local response efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Evan Gallant, a rescue swimmer from Air Station Miami, carries a boy away from an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter in Beaumont, Texas, Aug. 31, 2017. An aircraft crew working out of Air Station Houston transported a group of people from a shelter to Jack Brooks Regional Airport in Beaumont, Texas.
Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Evan Gallant, a rescue swimmer working out of Air Station Houston, prepares to deploy and rescue stranded people in Vidor, Texas, Aug. 31, 2017. Anderson Cooper, anchor with CNN, accompanied the aircraft crew on their rescue missions Thursday.
If you jumped into a time machine and found yourself at a recruiting office during World War II, what job would be safest to sign up for? While most people hoping to stay alive would just pick “anything but infantry,” there were actually other jobs that proved to be even more dangerous. Here are a few examples:
1. Ball turret gunners
Ball turret gunners flying over enemy targets had one of the war’s most dangerous jobs. In addition to the standard fears of being shot down, these gunners had to deal with the fact that they were dangling beneath the aircraft without any armor and were a favored target of enemy fighters.
Worse, their parachute didn’t fit in the ball and so they would have to climb into the plane and don the chute if the crew was forced to bail out. They were also more exposed to the elements than other aircrew members. Turret gunners oxygen lines could freeze from the extremely low temperatures.
2. Everyone else in the airplane
Of course, all aircrews over enemy territory had it bad. While planes are often thought of us a safe, cush assignment these days, it was one of the most dangerous jobs in World War II. Deadly accurate flak tore through bomber formations while fighters picked apart aircraft on their own.
And crews had limited options when things went wrong. First aid was so limited that severely injured crewmembers were sometimes thrown from the plane with their parachute in the hopes that Nazi soldiers would patch them up and send them to a POW camp. Flying over enemy territory in any aircraft was so dangerous that paratroopers actually counted down until they could jump out and become safer.
3. Merchant mariners
The military branch that took the worst losses in World War II is barely considered a military branch. The Merchant Marine was tasked with moving all the needed materiel from America to Britain, Russia, and the Pacific. While U.S. papers often announced that two Merchant Marine ships were lost the previous week, the actual losses averaged 33 ships per week.
Submariners had to descend beneath the surface of the ocean in overpacked steel tubes, so how could the job be any more dangerous than you would already expect? First of all, torpedoes were prone to what is called a “circle run.” It happens when a torpedo drifts to one side and so goes in a full circle, striking the sub that fired it.
If that didn’t happen, the sailors still had to worry about diesel fumes not venting or the batteries catching fire. Both scenarios would end with the crew asphyxiating. That’s not even counting the numerous mechanical or crew failures that could suddenly sink the vessel, something the crew of the USS Squalus learned the hard way.
5. Field-telephone layers and radio teams
Most soldiers know you should aim for the antennas on the battlefield, and that made a common POG job one of the most dangerous on the front lines in World War II. The antennas belonged to forward observers and commanders, so snipers homed in on them.
Similarly, cable was laid so leaders could speak without fear of the enemy listening in. The “cable dogs” tasked with running the telephone wires would frequently be shot by snipers hoping to stop enemy communications. Similarly, both radio carriers and cable dogs were targeted by planes and artillery units.
What if the “2nd amendment people” Donald Trump mentioned recently during a campaign rally were actually able to spark an armed rebellion to overthrow the United States?
In a 2012 article for the Small Wars Journal, two academics took a stab at such a scenario and tried to figure out how state and federal authorities would likely respond to a small force taking over an American town.
In their paper, retired Army colonel and University of Foreign Military and Cultural Studies professor Kevin Benson and Kansas University history professor Jennifer Weber wargamed a scenario where a Tea Party-motivated militia took over the town of Darlington, South Carolina.
The circumstances may seem far-fetched, but in today’s deeply partisan political environment, it’s at least worth looking into how the feds would respond if an American town tried to go it alone.
Precedents for fighting an insurrection
Benson and Weber cite Abraham Lincoln’s executive actions during the Civil War and Dwight Eisenhower’s 1957 intervention in Little Rock, Arkansas as precedents for the executive use of force in crushing a rebellion. The President would be able to mobilize the military and Department of Homeland Security to recapture a secessionist city and restore the elected government.
From Title 10 US Code the President may use the militia or Armed Forces to:
§ 331 – Suppress an insurrection against a State government at the request of the Legislature or, if not in session, the Governor.
§ 332 – Suppress unlawful obstruction or rebellion against the U.S.
§ 333 – Suppress insurrection or domestic violence if it (1) hinders the execution of the laws to the extent that a part or class of citizens are deprived of Constitutional rights and the State is unable or refuses to protect those rights or (2) obstructs the execution of any Federal law or impedes the course of justice under Federal laws.)
The Insurrection Act governs the roles of the military, local law enforcement, and civilian leadership inside the U.S. as this type of scenario plays out.
How it could go down
An extreme right-wing militia takes over the town of Darlington, South Carolina, placing the mayor under house arrest and disbanding the city council. Local police are disarmed or are sympathetic to the militia’s cause and integrated into the militia.
The rebels choke traffic on interstates 95 and 20, collecting “tolls” to fund their arsenal and operation. Militiamen also stop rail lines and detain anyone who protests their actions.
The insurgents use social media and press conferences to invoke the Declaration of Independence as their rationale, arguing they have the right to “alter or abolish the existing government and replace it with another that, in the words of the Declaration, ‘shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.’ ”
Because of this, they enjoy a “groundswell” of support from similarly-minded locals throughout the state. The mayor contacts the governor and his congressman. The governor doesn’t call out the National Guard for fear they’d side with the militiamen. He monitors the situation using the State Police but through aides, he asks the federal government to step in and restore order, but cannot do so publicly.
The President of the United States gives the militia 15 days to disperse.
Mobilizing a response
The executive branch first calls the state National Guard to federal service. The Joint Staff alerts the U.S. Northern Command who orders U.S. Army North/Fifth U.S. Army to form a joint task force headquarters. Local units go on alert – in this case, the U.S. Army at Forts Bragg and Stewart in North Carolina and Georgia, respectively, and Marines at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
The Fifth Army begins its mission analysis and intelligence preparation of the battlefield. This includes locating enemy bases, critical infrastructure, terrain, potential weather, and other important information.
Once the Fifth Army commander has a complete picture of the militia’s behavior patterns, deployments of forces, and activity inside the town, he begins a phased deployment of federal forces.
Civilian control of the military
The Fifth Army is in command of the military forces, but the Department of Justice is still the lead federal agency in charge on the ground. The Attorney General can designate a Senior Civilian Representative of the Attorney General (SCRAG) to coordinate all federal agencies and has the authority to assign missions to federal military forces. The Attorney General may also appoint a Senior Federal Law Enforcement Officer to coordinate federal law enforcement activities.
It’s interesting to note that many of the Constitutional protections afforded to American citizens still apply to those in arms against the government. For instance, federal judges will still have to authorize wiretaps on rebel phones during all phases of the federal response.
Troops on the ground will be aware of local, national, and international media constantly watching them and that every incidence of gunfire will likely be investigated.
Beginning combat operations
Combat units will begin show of force operations against militiamen to remind the rebels they’re now dealing with the actual United States military. Army and Marine Corps units will begin capturing and dismantling the checkpoints and roadblocks held by the militia members.
All federal troops will use the minimum amount of force, violence, and numbers necessary. Only increasing to put pressure on the insurrectionist leaders.
After dismantling checkpoints, soldiers and Marines will recapture critical infrastructure areas in the city, such as water and power stations, as well as TV and radio stations and hospitals.
Meanwhile, state law enforcement and activated National Guard units will care for the fleeing and residents of the city. This is partly for political reasons, allowing the government most susceptible to local voters to be seen largely absent from being in direct, sometimes armed conflict with their own elected officials.
Restoring government control
Federal troops will maintain law and order on the streets of the city as elected officials return to their offices. Drawing on U.S. military history, the government will likely give individual members of the militia a general amnesty while prosecuting the leaders and those who broke the law during the uprising.
Anyone who hates on an airplane with a nose-mounted laser designed to shoot down missiles is wrong. The only problem is that we’re limited by the technology required to make the lasers powerful enough. The Air Force may not have the patience or cash to make it happen, but they proved a long time ago, the concept is sound.
We live in the age of hypersonic missiles, ballistic missiles that can take down aircraft carriers, and potentially dozens of other kinds of warhead-toting rockets just waiting to be tried out on some of America’s finest. There’s no doubt we need some kind of defense.
The good news is that the U.S. Air Force has been testing anti-missile lasers for years, and has actually been able to take down missiles in flight. The effort to bring an anti-missile laser to an aircraft was actually kind of a heartwarming supergroup of defense contractors and the story has been a long time coming.
In the 1980s, many may recall the Department of Defense’s Strategic Defense Initiative, also known as the “Star Wars” program. It was one of the earliest efforts to create a laser-based missile defense system. Although mocked by many, throwing money into something like that yielded results.
By the end of the 1980s, the Air Force Airborne Laser Laboratory actually was shooting down missiles with lasers. By the mid-1990s, the Air Force was reaching out to Boeing to get these laser weapons onto an aircraft.
The 2000s saw a large group of defense contracting companies coming together to create an entirely new airborne defense system. Boeing repurposed an old 747-200 purchased from Air India. It prepared the aircraft to mount a Chemical Oxygen Iodine Laser (COIL) that was prepared specifically for the purpose of airborne defense.
The COIL, provided by Northrup Grumman, created a powerful, infrared laser that was not only capable of taking down missiles, it was tested and used in a way that was “representative of actual operational engagements.” For those unfamiliar with “govspeak,” this means that the laser was a viable weapon, capable of being used in combat.
When it came time to build the actual prototype of an anti-missile laser plane, Boeing brought a new 747-400, modified it to fit a nose turret and fire control system created by Lockheed-Martin, and mounted the Northrup Grumman COIL weapon on the front.
The Boeing YAL-1 was ready for action. Its job would be taking down ballistic missiles while still in the boost phase, actually taking its first flight in 2002. The program lasted a few short years, but produced some mixed yet hopeful results.
Although the weapon worked, it was not operationally viable. Though the laser could shoot down missiles, it would have needed 20-30 times more power to fire the laser a significant distance, according to then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates.
Gates went on to note that shooting down missiles in the boost phase, without knowing exactly where they would be fired, might require dozens of these aircraft, flying continuously might require more money than the project was worth. The Air Force didn’t request more funding for the laser project and the prototype was ultimately scrapped.
Although the program itself ended up not producing a significant weapon, it did prove that lasers could be used as short-range aircraft defense. It also showed that lasers could be a sub-orbital defense against ballistic missiles, something the “Star Wars” program was widely ridiculed for.
Two Air Force vets made a breakthrough in gun safety. They created an accessory that keeps pistols from firing in the wrong hands.
Dubbed the “Guardian,” it uses fingerprint technology to unlock a gun’s trigger by the owner. It attaches to most pistols without modifying the weapon and remains in place during use, making it quick and convenient to handle while serving its purpose.
It’s similar to unlocking your mobile phone. After authentication via fingerprint, the Guardian unlocks allowing the slide to snap forward granting access to the handgun trigger:
Skylar Gerrond and Matt Barido set out to solve two problems with the Guardian: safety and immediate protection. The best practice with children at home requires firearms be locked away with bullets stored in a different location. But this could defeat the purpose of having a firearm ready at a moment’s notice. To remedy this problem, some owners hide the weapon in an easy to access location, which can jeopardize safety. The Guardian solves both problems.
“That’s the dilemma that drives people to taking the worse course of action — a loaded handgun, not secured at all, in a ‘safe place’ where [they think the] kids doesn’t know about it,” said Gerrond in an interview with The Blaze. “We wanted something that never actually left the handgun. The slide retracts forward in front of trigger guard, allowing access for you to physically insert finger into trigger well.”
The Guardian’s target price will be $199 when it becomes available. The creators are still in the prototype phase and are using Indiegogo to fund its development.
The 2016 Warrior Games held their opening ceremony on June 15. The games are an adaptive sports competition for veterans and service members who are ill, wounded, or otherwise injured. Two hundred and fifty athletes on six teams (Army, Marine Corps, Navy Coast Guard, Air Force, Special Operations Command, and the UK Armed Force) will compete for just over a week at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The events include Archery, Cycling, Track, Field, Shooting, Sitting Volleyball, Swimming, and Wheelchair Basketball.
One of the competitors to watch is Jason Reyes, a retired Navy Fire Controlman, who was in a motorcycle accident in 2012. He suffered a severe spinal cord injury as well as a traumatic brain injury. He was in a coma for ten days.
In the four years since he has been a fierce competitor in wheelchair basketball, learning the ins and outs with the San Diego Wolfpack. He didn’t even know about Wheelchair Basketball until he met the Wolfpack.
“Yeah, they’re professional, a pro team,” Reyes recalls. “Personally, it was about trying to be healthy, to do more than just sitting around. When a person is in a wheelchair and they’re not healthy, there’s a decline in their well-being. I didn’t want that for me.”
His remarkable recovery and interest in wheelchair athletics led to even more competition. The Warrior Games inspired his interest in the Cycling and Track events. In 2015, Reyes received a sponsorship to compete in Wheelchair Motocross, or WCMX. He is the only veteran to compete in WCMX at a pro level.
“Basically it’s a wheelchair in a skate park,” Reyes says. “I went to the 2015 world championships where I placed fourth in the world in WCMX. I’m the eighth person in the world to do the back flip in a wheelchair.”
Reyes joined the Navy because he felt like it was his calling. He wanted to be part of something greater than himself. He was always an athletic guy. While serving as a Fire Controlman for missiles, he prepared to go into Special Operations, with the goal of one day being an officer. He was running five miles a day, hitting the gym every day because he felt like it was his calling.
“I wanted to live for something, Reyes says. it was just something that I just latched onto easily. I felt like it was my calling, and it was going to be a lifetime thing.”
Now, his calling is slightly different but he approaches it with the same zeal. His mission is to help others in wheelchairs understand their life isn’t over because of the wheelchair.
“I feel like some guys just need that little bit of motivation,” he says. “Sometimes I’ll go volunteer and speak to kids that are born with Spina Bifida or veterans that I know have PTSD and depression. I try to get them to open their mind up to other things.”
That’s what brings him to events like the Invictus Games, the Warrior Games, and – soon – the International Paralympics. Reyes wants to represent my branch and his country but loves to be around his brothers and sisters in uniform. The military community is where he feels he belongs.
“No matter what branch, we all go together no matter what,” he says. “I would have never thought that something like this could be possible. I just feel blessed that I was given the opportunity to be able to do what I’ve done. ”
Reyes still feels he has much to learn. At the Warrior Games, he has met people who have used wheelchairs for as long as twenty and thirty years. Every time he meets someone, he finds it broadens his experience and he learns a lot.
“When I first got hurt, there weren’t a lot of people there to help me,” he remembers. “Not a lot of people were around to help push me or educate me as to how the paraplegic world functions, so I try to do that for others, to open their eyes up to the idea just because you’re in a wheelchair doesn’t mean it’s over. You just have to find your calling and what makes you happy.”