VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Several local military members are competing in the 2023 Department of Defense Warrior Games in San Diego starting Friday.
The annual adapted sports competition, started in 2010, celebrates the resiliency and skills of wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans. This year’s event runs from June 2-12, with a kick-off event Friday aboard the USS Midway.
The Warrior Games is sort of like the Olympics, with teams from the different branches (Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps) and SOCOM (Special Operations Command) competing against each in many different events. They include archery, cycling, wheelchair rugby, sitting volleyball, shooting and track and field.
The competitors from Hampton Roads are Airman Jasmine Jones (Norfolk), Aviation Electronics Technician Airman Christopher Ratliff (Virginia Beach), Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Maxwell Ocloo (Suffolk) and Senior Chief Petty Officer Werner “Tiny” Mammen (Virginia Beach), who’s representing SOCOM.
“It means the world,” Tiny says about getting the opportunity again (he’s a multi-time participant) to compete. He was also picked to be a part of the U.S. team in this September’s Invictus Games in Germany.
“I was a track athlete since I was 12 and just being able to get back into it and train with the guys and gals and help other people … just being active and keeping us moving forward is probably the biggest part. You know, you stop swimming you’re kinda dead in the water kinda deal.”
Now 46 after 23 years of military service, the 6-foot-5, 300-pound former football lineman got involved with the Warrior Games via the DoD’s Warrior Care program, after a significant knee injury involving his patella tendon while serving with Naval Special Warfare Group Two.
He also suffered blood clots and pulmonary embolisms post-surgery, and lost about 1/3 of his lung capacity.
“Post surgery I probably put on a hundred pounds, I got real big. I was on that special Oreo diet,” he joked.
He says the Warrior Care program and events like the Warrior Games have been key to his recovery, along with help from the folks at Flex Gym on Bonney Road in Virginia Beach.
“Just being active and keeping us moving forward is probably the biggest part. You know, you stop swimming you’re kinda dead in the water kinda deal.”
He’ll compete in the shot put and discus and many other events, including his new favorites, swimming and archery.
“I picked up archery this time around, which was completely awesome. For a big guy it’s harder because it’s not a strength event, it’s a technique and structural event more than anything else.”
Overall he’s just excited about the comradery and making new friends, and the greater purpose behind the event.
“I hope people get the chance to maybe see it. Get online and stream it and see these incredible athletes. I’m pretty mobile with my injuries, there’s some other guys and gals that have way more injuries than I do, but to see them get out there and compete and learn something new, a total different task then they’ve ever done you know … it’s really important for these guys’ recovery, our mental health and just having a team that we’ve all marched in the same sandboxes.”
But of course he’s gonna show out for the special operations community.
“Yeah, SOCOM’s gonna win,” he joked.