By Debbie Gregory.
Americans love their sports. Since childhood, sports ingrain in our brains the competitive force that drives Americans to be winners. Playing sports tests our physical abilities and hones our mental strength. Americans love to watch sports because the victories of our favorite teams or athletes inspire us to achieve such greatness for ourselves.
There is one team heating up the ice in Maryland and all over the country. This team’s greatness is not measured in wins and losses. The very existence of the team is a triumph. Those who see this team on the ice want to emulate the mental strength and physical fortitude of its athletes.
The USA Warriors Ice Hockey team has been inspiring Americans since 2008. Not only is the team made up entirely of US military Veterans, but all of the Vets have been injured in combat. Most of the team members have been awarded the Purple Heart, and half of them are amputees.
The USA Warriors Ice Hockey Program was developed as a non-profit organization, operating solely for the benefit of those wounded while serving the country. The program is designed to “educate, train, motivate and encourage” service-wounded Vets though athletic training and competition. According to its website, the program’s mission is to “organize and administer [for wounded Veterans] an ice hockey program that provides a recreational, therapeutic experience and education.” The program is a participant of both USA Hockey, Inc and the Potomac Valley Amateur Hockey Association, Inc.
The player roster for the program is broken down into two teams, “standing” and “sled” players. The standing players play by rules that many hockey fans will recognize with standard equipment.
Sled players are players who have a disability that prohibits them from standing up. For the USA Warriors, this includes amputees from the Global War on Terror. Instead of skating, players are seated on a sled made of aluminum. Instead of one long hockey stick, sled players use two smaller sticks (of up to 100 cm max). These sticks are used to pass and shoot the puck as well as to propel themselves on their sleds.
This team of heroes practices constantly as part of their therapy. The team also flexes its greatness by competing against other teams. Just recently, the Warriors Sled Team was backed by the Washington Capitals in the annual USA Hockey Sled Classic. For the second year in a row, the USA Warriors (aka Washington Capitals) Sled team were champions of their division.
The USA Warriors Ice Hockey Program is completely staffed by volunteers, both on and off the ice. These volunteers ask for no salary or compensation for their time or efforts. And the program never asks the wounded Vets who participate to pay for equipment, ice time or anything program related. This great charity is funded by Disabled American Veterans and through donations by those inspired by this team of heroes.