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Christopher Di Virgilio

One Wyoming women captures the spirit of living life with a disability and lands this year's Get Out, Enjoy Life top spot


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Remembering Why They Suit Up

Reprinted from SNS September 2017

Three Paralyzed Veterans of America members respond to the call of being selected for Invictus Games

Besides the pictures and the memories, Danny Dudek kept another memento from his first Invictus Games — his Team USA uniform. 

The active duty Army colonel had a slightly disappointing inaugural 2014 Invictus Games experience in London, losing his luggage that caused him to miss his scheduled swimming events and struggling in his cycling events. 

But that uniform reminds him that despite that experience, he still made the team. And that’s still an honor. 


Occasionally, the 48-year-old Paralyzed Veterans of America Northwest Chapter member will remove the shorts and T-shirt from a hanger in his closet and wear them for a workout. Sometimes, he just wants to commemorate the Invictus spirit. 

“It’s you’re wearing your nation’s colors to a sporting event, and it’s just kind of that kind of powerful overture of I get to represent the greatest country in the world. And it’s sending me somewhere to be an ambassador, and it just really was a special kind of feeling of, I’m not going to say achievement because I didn’t achieve anything with it, it was just an honor to be able to do that,” says Dudek, a Roy, Wash., resident, who was injured on July 19, 2007, after a roadside bomb hit the back of his Stryker vehicle in Baghdad. The blast killed one of his fellow soldiers and hit Dudek in the back — leaving him with an L3-L4 incomplete spinal-cord injury. 

An Ambassador Again

Three years later, Dudek will be an ambassador once again. He’ll be competing in this month’s Invictus Games in Toronto, which hopefully will include many more events. He’s scheduled to do swimming, cycling and track events in the only international adaptive sporting event for ill, wounded and injured active duty and veteran service members.

This year, 550 competitors from 17 nations are expected for the Sept. 23–30 event, an increase of nearly 50 from last year’s Games held in Orlando, Fla. Athletes will compete in 12 adaptive sports, including archery, athletics, indoor rowing, powerlifting, road cycling, sitting volleyball, swimming, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair tennis, wheelchair rugby and the newest addition, golf. 

Created by England’s Prince Harry, the Invictus Games help showcase soldiers’ and veterans’ spirit, drive, perseverance and the power of sport on their journey to recovery. Prince Harry came up with the idea after a May 2013 visit to the U.S.-based Warrior Games, which were held in Colorado Springs, Colo. He wanted the Games to focus on these servicemen and servicewomen’s character. 

“These Games have been about seeing competitors sprinting for the finish line with everything they have and then turning around to clap the last person in,” Prince Harry says in a press release. “They have been about teammates choosing to cross the line together. These Games have been a display of the very best of the human spirit.”

For more information on the Invictus Games, visit invictusgames2017.com.  

 

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Remembering Why They Suit Up

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