TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – It was an evening of celebration and gratitude at the opening ceremonies of the Department of Defense Warrior Games.
News Channel 8 is a proud supporter of this event in Tampa for its ninth year.
There was so much excitement and love for the athletes and all veterans. This was a night to honor the men and women who not only got up when they were knocked down — but entered back in the arena.
One by one, groups of remarkable athletes walked onto the stage inside Amalie Arena.
More than 300 athletes representing the major departments of the U.S. military are also joined by several other countries for ten days of competing in various Paralympic-style games.
“The athletes are finding out what it’s like to compete in a city that was built in a humidifier. What a lovely climate,” joked host of the night comedian Jon Stewart.
He hosted the opening ceremonies in Tampa, but it’s the athletes that drew thousands of people to the stands and outside in Thunder Alley.
“I get inspired by watching these athletes get out and actually doing something. It’s inspiring,” said Will Bicknell who came to watch the ceremonies.
“I just think they’re tremendous athletes overcoming the adversity that they do. You know, they sacrificed a lot for us. It’s the least we can do to come out and support them,” exclaimed James Chase who came with his family to support the athletes.
“How does it feel to know everyone has come out to support your team and the rest of the athletes?
I don’t know if I can say the words. There are chills. There are chills all over,” said Chris Uggiano the head coach for the U.S. Army team.
It was an evening of thanks by military leaders and politicians including Tampa Mayor Jane Castor.
“I want to tell you that you have my utmost respect, and you have the respect of a grateful community here in Tampa and a grateful nation as well. So thank every single one of you,” says Castor.
All games are free for the public to watch. It’s great sportsmanship and truly inspiring.
Some of the events tomorrow include field events shot put, seated discus, and standing discus. There’s also wheelchair tennis which is new by the way this year, and a cycling race on Bayshore Boulevard.