Posted on August 22, 2014
Last week, the 34th National Veterans Wheelchair Games (NVWG), presented by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), came to my home town, Philadelphia, PA. I was honored to attend. As Booz Allen’s Army CSO, I am mindful of the large number of newly disabled veterans stemming from the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – many of whom are Army soldiers.
This year, the firm was the sponsor of the Quad Rugby competition, and I was struck by the physicality of the game. It was part demolition derby, part soccer, part rugby and involved all-in intensity on the part of the athletes. As I watched, I found myself getting into the drama of it all. I watched the impressive ways the athletes performed, admired their team work and enjoyed the rivalry on display between the opposing teams. The fact that these athletes were playing in wheelchairs was irrelevant. Their passion and commitment to the game was transformational. Much about the human spirit was reaffirmed for me—where there is will and determination, much can be achieved notwithstanding physical limitations.
The NVWG and other athletic programs available to wounded veterans allow these men and women to help reclaim essential aspects of their identities that they may fear are lost because of their injury: athleticism, competitiveness, teamwork, achievement, determination. For wounded warrior caregivers, adaptive sports programs provide goals that they can work towards together, and a community of people to belong to and rely upon who are facing similar challenges.
At the conclusion of the Quad Rugby games, I had the opportunity to award the silver and gold medals to the athletes. As I stood with them, I could tell the adrenaline was still pumping for each. They were energized, proud, focused, and intense -- still.
I shook hands with each, and I was struck by how much of an effort that simple act took for several of them. And each was so gracious -- being thankful to us for sponsoring the event, for volunteering to be there, and for watching and cheering for them all. I found this to be a very humbling experience, and somewhat ironic -- that they would be thanking us when they are the ones who have given so much, first in service to the nation and just now, as athletes who had played their hearts out.
As so often happens when we volunteer to help others, I found that I myself was touched and changed by the experience of being with these incredible athletes.
The Booz Allen family owes so much to our servicemen and women. When on active duty, our veterans served our country and protected the principles upon which our country stands. Many were likely clients of ours, or may have benefited from the work we did for their branch of the military. The same is true for them as veterans. We are connected. To the veterans who returned from warfare with physical disabilities, we have a duty to do more. While the NVWG are over for 2014, the firm’s sponsorship of the Salute Military Golf Association Wounded Warrior Tournaments will be in full swing starting in early September. More than 15 offices across the firm will volunteer hours of their time to raise funds for our American heroes to learn the game of golf. I hope you’ll be able to attend one of these events or the 2015 NVWG being held in Dallas. These are truly transformational experiences.