CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- Injured Marines, veterans and allies joined together to commence the 2012 Marine Corps Trials at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif.
Practices for the Trials kicked off Feb. 16 and competitions are being held Feb. 17-22. The top 50 performing Marines will earn the opportunity to compete in the Wounded Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, Colo., in May.
“There’s more to life than the injury, said Lance Cpl. Samantha Gaona. “A lot of people think they can’t do it anymore, the trials help us know we still have a lot in us.”
Gaona, a cancer survivor and first-time Trials participant from San Antonio, is competing in wheelchair basketball and air rifle shooting.
Gaona said her goal is to make it to the Warrior Games.
“I was told this was going to be tough,” Gaona said. “The practices are getting more difficult, but it’s not that hard.”
The Warrior Games isn’t the last stop for some Marines.
Cpl. Anthony McDaniel’s goal is to be on the All Marine Team and then the Paralympic Team for wheelchair basketball.
“Just because you got injured, your life doesn’t have to stop,” McDaniel said. “You may not be able to do the exact things you used to, but you can do similar things, and have a lot of fun doing it. As long as you don’t want to stop yourself, you can do whatever you want to do.”
McDaniel was hit by an improvised explosive device and suffered a bilateral above-knee amputation and below-elbow amputation. He plays wheelchair basketball and participates in the 100-meter and 200-meter wheelchair race.
The Trials are part of the Wounded Warrior Regiments’ Warrior Athlete Reconditioning Program, which provides opportunities for Marines to engage in both physical and cognitive activities outside the traditional therapy setting.
“I was focused on rehabilitation but the WAR program helped me get out of the hospital,” McDaniel said. “It helps you maintain your physical fitness without you knowing it through all the new sports. They helped me come out of that shell and isolation by trying new things.”
This year’s Trials has twice as many participants as last year with more than 300 participants from seven countries: the U.S., United Kingdom, Canada, France, Australia, Germany, Columbia and the Netherlands.
British Royal Marine Cpl. Matthew Webb from Taunton, U.K., said he competed in events he never would have done before at the Trials.
“It’s giving me a chance to complete personal goals,” Webb said. “It’s great to be in a competition again.”
Competitions include swimming, wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball, track and field, archery, cycling and shooting. Most of the athletes are competing in more than one competition and many are trying these sports out for the first time.
The 2011 All Marines Team took the glory at last year’s Warrior Games with 73 medals. The Navy and Coast Guard Team came in second with 23 medals. The top 50 Marines from this year’s trials will go on to the Warrior Games to compete against the other military branches to prove their warrior spirit.