Save this content for laterSave this content on your device for later, even while offline Sign in with FacebookSign in with your Facebook account Close

Wounded soldier anxious to compete in Warrior Games

By: LANCE BENZEL
May 8, 2010
0

There’s little question that Sgt. 1st Class Justin Widhalm is a fighter.

In 2006, while leading his Army sniper team on a mission in Iraq, the Fort Carson sharpshooter fell from a height of 25 feet when the Blackhawk helicopter from which he was preparing to jump lurched suddenly in a windstorm.

Despite breaking his feet and back in the fall, he joined his team in completing the nighttime hunt — using his rifle as a cane.

Widhalm, 32, plans to carry that fighting spirit into the inaugural Warrior Games, a five-day contest in Colorado Springs involving 200 wounded warriors from each of the military’s five branches.

“It’s a friendly but very competitive competition between the services,” said Widhalm, who will compete in seated volleyball, cycling and two competitive shooting events, fittingly enough.

The games are organized by the U.S. Olympic Committee’s U.S. Paralympics division, the Department of Defense, the United Service Organizations and the national nonprofit Ride 2 Recovery.

Events will be held Tuesday through Friday at the U.S. Olympic Training Center, the Air Force Academy and Memorial Park. Archery, basketball, swimming and track and field also are on the bill.

Most events are free and open to the public, though limited seating is available for swimming and shooting.

For many, the games offer a chance to work toward a short-term a goal while adjusting to life-altering changes.

Widhalm, for one, once believed physical contests were a thing of the past for him.

The July 23, 2006, Blackhawk accident north of Baghdad cut his tour with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team two months short, but the full extent of his battle wounds wasn’t immediately clear.

A dozen roadside bombs exploded near Widhalm during that same tour, including a March 23, 2006 blast that knocked him unconscious, resulting in what may be a lifelong battle against a traumatic brain injury. The symptoms include splitting headaches, sensitivity to light, nausea and balance problems.

Widhalm is assigned to the Fort Carson’s Warrior Transition Battalion and awaiting the Army’s decision on whether he will remain in the service. Unable to lead men in combat, he said he is slowly coming around to the idea that he can contribute in other ways.

He decided to begin competing after seeing paralympians in action in Vancouver early this year. “It was truly inspiring, seeing people a lot worse off than I was achieve amazing things,” he said. “If they can do it, I have no excuse.”

Widhalm is looking beyond the Warrior Games to make his own run at the Paralympics Games, possibly in winter sports. Whether he’ll succeed is unclear; what’s certain, he said, is that he will “try and try and try.”

“I thought this part of my life was behind me.  It’s only the beginning.”

 

WARRIOR GAMES
Opening ceremonies are scheduled for 5 p.m. Monday (May 10) at the Olympic Training Center, 1750 E. Boulder St.
For a detailed schedule of events, visit www.usparalympics.org and find “Warrior Games presented by Deloitte” under the Military tab. Click on “Competition Schedule” in the box at the left.


Call the writer at 636-0366.

Register to the Colorado Springs Gazette
Incognito Mode Your browser is in Incognito mode

You vanished!

We welcome you to read all of our stories by signing into your account. If you don't have a subscription, please subscribe today for daily award winning journalism.

Register to the Colorado Springs Gazette
Subscribe to the Colorado Springs Gazette

It appears that you value local journalism. Thank you.

Subscribe today for unlimited digital access with 50% fewer ads for a faster browsing experience.

Already a Subscriber? LOGIN HERE

Wake up with today's top stories in your inbox

Wake up with today's top stories in your inbox

or
Already a print subscriber?
Already a digital subscriber?
 
This is your last FREE article for the month
This is your last FREE article for the month

Subscribe now and enjoy Unlimited Digital Access to Gazette.com

Only 99 cents for Unlimited Digital Access for 1 month
Then $2.31/week, billed monthly, cancel anytime
Already a print subscriber?
Already a digital subscriber?

 
You have reached your article limit for the month
You have reached your article limit for the month

We hope that you've enjoyed your complimentary access to Gazette.com

Only 99 cents for Unlimited Digital Access for 1 month
Then $2.31/week, billed monthly, cancel anytime
Already a print subscriber?
Already a digital subscriber?

 
articles remaining
×
Thank you for your interest in local journalism.
Gain unlimited access, 50% fewer ads and a faster browsing experience.