Special Olympians take over JBLM during Summer Games

Service members help make weekend special for thousands of athletes

By David Poe/JBLM PAO on June 8, 2012

Major General Jeffrey S. Buchanan, I Corps' deputy commanding general, forms part of a command team responsible for nine brigades of troops, yet as he looked out at a sea of thousands of Special Olympians June 1, he said he couldn't help but be inspired.

Marking the 40th year the South Sound military has supported the event, hundreds of Joint Base Lewis-McChord service members and civilians once again volunteered thousands of hours to the 2012 Special Olympics Washington Summer Games at JBLM, June 1 to 3.

Almost two brigades-worth of athletes, coaches and family members, approximately 6,000, visited JBLM for the three-day event. Soldiers from the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade served as executive hosts, with assistance from 62nd Medical Brigade, 62nd Airlift Wing, 627th Air Base Group and other military units. The JBLM command group also supported the games as venue hosts and each of the garrison's six directorates pitched in during months of preparation.

During the parade of athletes and opening ceremonies June 1 at JBLM McChord Field's Hangar 1, Col. Thomas Brittain, JBLM commander, and Col. Robert Dickerson, 16th CAB commander, were just two of many leaders on hand to help welcome the athletes and teams to JBLM for yet another year. Dave Harris, SOWA board chair-elect, said he couldn't be have been happier with the support from the military and returning every year for the summer games is an easy decision.

"The base here has been putting this on for 40 years and has been a great partner with Special Olympics," he said. "The military has done just a fantastic job."

Buchanan, who's recently returned from Iraq, also welcomed Special Olympians from across the state to JBLM. He said whether it was the challenges of newly freed people in Southwest Asia, or those the weekend's athletes would face in competition, certain truths about adversity and triumph were universal.

"During (my last tour) I had the privilege of spending a day with the Iraqi Olympic marathon team," Buchanan said. "I learned what these athletes went through every day and their training strategies, and what really impressed me about them was their team cohesion. They had overcome obstacles and the thing that bonded them was there tenacity - each one of these athletes had an unwavering tenacity to train and run every day despite real threats of violence, lack of equipment and inadequate nutrition. Their adamant refusal to quit inspired me. They never quit and it made me think hard of my own efforts, especially when I started feeling sorry for myself."

He said he appreciated that they, just like the athletes at JBLM June 1 to 3, were there to inspire him and thousands of other troops to "stay the course."

"The good news is I see that tenacity in every one of our athletes here tonight," he said. "You never gave up. Each one of you is an inspiration to me and an inspiration to every one of the Soldiers and Airmen you're going to meet this weekend. Thanks for inspiring us."