Top war fighters unite at Warrior Games

FORT CARSON, Colo. — “The worst thing you can do to a warrior is take him out of his warrior tribe,” said Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Livesay of Dallas, Texas, a leg amputee and former Special Forces medical sergeant.

Competitions keep wounded warriors recovering by fueling their fighting spirit, said Livesay, who united with 17 other expert war fighters to form the first special operations team to compete in the Warrior Games, a joint effort by the Department of Defense and U.S. Olympic Committee.

About 200 veterans of war participated in the second annual Warrior Games May 16-21 in Colorado Springs. Soldiers, airmen, Marines, sailors and Coast guardsmen joined service-affiliated athletic teams to overcome limb amputation or dysfunction, spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Livesay initially registered with the Army. However, two months before the games began, 20 slots were allocated for a new special operations team. He detached from his service connection to represent the military’s elite, such as the Green Berets, Navy SEALs and Air Force Combat Controllers.

“We’ve got guys who are natural athletes and most of the guys are Type-A personalities,” said Livesay, describing the Warrior Games’ inaugural special operations team.

Livesay is assigned to the World Class Athlete Program at Fort Carson. The Soldier says athletic events help wounded warriors “see what they can still achieve.”

“I’ve spent half my [Army] career on one leg,” said Livesay. Since becoming an amputee eight years ago, he has earned the Army Pathfinder Badge and continues to skydive from planes.

“I’m not disabled. There are people with two legs who can’t do what I do — there are people who would have quit a long time ago.”

“I’m not disabled. There are people with two legs who can’t do what I do — there are people who would have quit a long time ago.”

The soldier enlisted in the Army in 1991, as a North Lamar High School football quarterback and track athlete in Paris, Texas, northeast of Dallas. He was raised within a family of highly-decorated Army veterans — his grandfather landed in Normandy during World War II and his father served three tours in Vietnam.

On April 7, 2003, the Green Beret was pinned down in a brutal ambush in southern Baghdad. Automatic rifle bullets and rocket-propelled grenades seemed to arrive from all sides, he said. A 7.62 mm bullet ultimately tore into his left knee, severing a major artery.

Livesay took cover beneath a bridge, where another soldier attempted to keep pressure on his wound. Twenty minutes later, a tank penetrated the intense gun battle and transported him to a medevac helicopter. He was treated for massive blood and fluid losses.

Right after surgeons restored blood flow inside his lower left leg, the situation got worse. A deadly bacterium had slipped into his wound in Iraq. Army physicians at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., rushed to remove his infected limb, severing it two inches above his knee.

“I was about a day from being dead,” said Livesay. “It’s a miracle that I survived the battlefield.”

Livesay has transitioned his warrior spirit from securing combat zones to earning national rankings in rowing and sitting volleyball. His sights are currently set on representing the United States in the Paralympic Games.

“The level of competition here is higher than I expected — the natural rivalry between the branches is definitely amped up,” said Livesay, regarding the Warrior Games. “If you come here thinking you’re just going to have a good time and participate, you’re going to get embarrassed.”

Livesay competed in archery, swimming and sitting volleyball during the Warrior Games. Other events included track and field, shooting relays, wheelchair basketball and cycling. He didn’t medal until the final day, when special operations defeated the Navy and Coast Guard in volleyball.

Top War Fighters Unite at Warrior Games

Top War Fighters Unite at Warrior Games

“Nobody expected us to win a match since we were a team thrown together at the last minute,” he said, immediately after three tightly-scored sets earned them the bronze medal. “But we were only one game out from competing for gold.”

Livesay hopes to compete in the ultimate champion category at the 2012 Warrior Games. He was originally scouted for the ultimate champion events this year, but an imbalance of involvement elsewhere caused special operations to drop out.

“The Warrior Games are first class all the way,” he said. “They spare no expenses — the best coaches and best gear, the clothing to compete in and the equipment to compete with. As Soldiers, we don’t always get the red carpet rolled out, but here we’re getting the best.”

“They went the extra mile to make sure we’re the best we can be.”

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