Northwest Military Blogs: Army West Blog

July 13, 2017 at 11:23am

Soldier honors family at DoD Warrior Games

Col. Daniel Dudek is surrounded by his parents Robert and Peggy during the 2013 Warrior Games. He is currently at the McCormick Place Convention Center, Chicago, Illinois, for the 2017 Department of Defense Warrior Games. Photo courtesy Col. Daniel Dudek

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On a cool summer morning on the Northside of Chicago, Col. Daniel Dudek enters his fifth lap on the track at Lane Technical College Preparatory High School. He's practicing for the DoD 2017 Warrior Games wheelchair racing competition; one of 38 athletes competing for Team Army.

Dudek, currently with I Corps, is the former Joint Base Lewis-McChord Warrior Transition Battalion commander.

For Dudek, Lane Tech is hallowed ground. His father, who died just last year, ran cross-country track at Lane Tech. That was more than 50 years ago.

"I can't believe I'm finally here. I feel like I'm spending time with Dad again," Dudek said.

Dudek suffered a spinal cord injury in 2007 after an improvised explosive device struck his vehicle. The blast left him with limited mobility in his legs, requiring him to use his arms to get around most of the time. However, this new reality did not dampen his spirit.

"Listen, if you have an ounce of positivity, it will go out into the world exponentially. Dealing with issues is a state of mind," he said. "If you were positive before the injury then that attitude will continue and vice versa."

Just one of many lessons Dudek encourages individuals to follow, but his greatest lesson came from his father, Robert.

"He would sit in the stands and I would always look for him and my mom. After the game he would say, "Don't look up at us, and focus!"

Although Dudek's dad is no longer in the stands, he remains his guiding force.

"There is a white ribbon encased on my cycle, with his picture. He's always with me."

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