This year’s Olympic games in Rio de Janiero, Brazil was full of exceeded expectations, excitement, and more. In addition to Simone Biles, Michael Phelps, and other Olympians, there were 19 servicemen and women who qualified for a position on the Team USA roster–15 active-duty personnel, 2 veterans, 1 Navy civilian, and 1 incoming midshipman to the Naval Academy, including Spc. Dan Lowe, Regine Tugade, and 2nd. Lt. Sam Hendricks.
Out of all 121 medals, Army Specialist Paul Chelimo received one of the 37 silver medals awarded. Chelimo, who was born in Kenya, won the silver in the men’s 5,000 meter run. After the race, he was informed by a television reporter that he was disqualified from the race for infringement in another athlete’s lane, but the ruling was later overturned. Chelimo ran his best time of 13 minutes, 3.94 seconds, right behind Great Britain’s Mo Farah.
Chelimo was a part of the U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program, which he credits for being the reason he was able to compete in Rio, “I’m only here because of these Army Soldiers,” Fanning said. “That’s the reason I’m part of this delegation. But it was fun for the entire delegation to have an extra reason to cheer, not just for the United States but for the Army, so they were screaming loudly for him: ‘Who’s your Soldier? Who’s your Soldier?’”
Chelimo’s next tour will not be overseas with fellow soldiers, but throughout the United States as a trainer with the World Class Athlete Program, inspiring the youth in this country to follow their dreams.
With the Olympics at a close, it’s time to turn our attention to the 15th Paralympic Games, which will also be held in Rio. Of the Paralympians competing, there are 20 soldiers, six Marines, three sailors, and one airman across the 23 sports being showcased.
In addition to Brad Synder, a sailor who lost his eyesight in Afghanistan and holds the world record for the blind 100-meter freestyle, there is Anthony McDaniel competing in Para Rugby and Elizabeth Marks, competing in Para Swimming, among other athletes and veterans. McDaniel lost his legs and left hand in 2010 from an improvised explosive device while serving as a Marine in Afghanistan and Marks suffered severe hip injuries while an Army combat medic in Iraq in 2010, which left her with no sensation in her left leg.
McDaniel said back in 2014 that adaptive sports helped give him a sense of tranquility after spending more than a year in rehab following the IED explosion in August 2010, “It’s just been helping me stay focused and positive,” McDaniel said. “It keeps me out and active every day.”
Marks told ESPN that the medals she earns in her competitions are not the end game–to her, the process of competing is more gratifying and thinks back to helping others during her time as a combat medic, “When I step onto the blocks, I never think, ‘I want to win,'” she says. “I think, ‘I want to pour all of myself into this race because there are people who can’t physically, mentally or emotionally, do that.’ So it’s my way of performing for them.”
The Paralympics are now days away from the start of the 15th Paralympics. It runs from September 7-18. We salute these servicemen and women and are excited to see how they compete and represent the United States and their respective military branches.
The Purple Heart Foundation is committed to assisting not just the Veterans of the Paralympics, but all veterans who have served our country. Show your support for these brave men and women by making a one-time or monthly pledge to ensure Veterans continue to get the support and benefits they deserve by clicking here.