By Airman 1st Class Damon Kasberg, 7th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
/ Published May 06, 2013
DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas -- Stories of service, sacrifice and resiliency can be found throughout the military and while people might have to search deep for them, there is one place where every man and woman in a uniform personifies each of those stories.
More than 200 servicemembers from throughout the U.S. and British armed forces will come together to compete in the 2013 Warrior Games from May 11 - 17 in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Of all the competitors, one Airman from Dyess was selected to be a member of the Air Force team. Master Sgt. Simon Wess, 7th Civil Engineer Squadron, will participate in the archery and air pistol portion of the games.
"We are proud to host the Warrior Games at the U.S. Olympic Training Center and the Air Force Academy," said Charlie Huebner, United States Olympic Committee chief of paralympics. "Paralympic sport has a tremendously positive impact on individuals with physical disabilities, and the Warrior Games allow us to salute these fine young men and women who have served their countries honorably."
The Warrior Games bring military members and veterans from the Air Force, Army, Marines, Navy/ Coast Guard, Special Operations Command, and British warrior team together to participate in an Olympic-style competition, which includes sitting volleyball, wheel chair basketball, swimming, cycling, track and field, archery and competitive shooting, and are open to all wounded, ill and injured members.
"It's an honor to represent Dyess and the Air Force," Wess said. "The games are very competitive, but it's not about winning gold, silver or bronze. It's part of it and it's great to recognize people who perform, but really it's about getting these athletes together who are struggling with their recovery and show them that they're not alone. If anyone gets the opportunity to attend the Warrior Games, it's a life changing event. It's tough seeing all that pain and suffering people went through, but at the same time it's inspiring to see what they're overcoming."
Looking at Wess, one couldn't tell that he's a wounded warrior because the damages to his body are in his lungs.
"In 2005, I was in Bagram, Afghanistan," Wess said. "While we were tearing out a Russian aircraft parking ramp, I inhaled something and immediately went down. After a day I was told if they didn't get me to Germany that I would die.
"I was given a phone to tell my mom, I love her, then was put on a ventilator and given drugs to induce a coma," he said. "When I woke up, I was in Germany with my parents next to me and was told my lungs had been scarred and my lung capability was reduced."
Like the damage to his lungs, Wess' other wound isn't visible, but it's something he and other servicemembers suffer and cope with.
"In 2009 and 2010, I did convoys in Afghanistan," Wess said. "We were attacked and some of our guys were critically hurt. The rest of us performed first aid to the injured, but one of them didn't make it. Since then I've had survivor guilt that I've had to deal with."
This is the second year that Wess has participated in the games. Though he is much more comfortable participating this year, in 2011 it was much harder for him to be at the games and around people, something he helps other servicemembers overcome.
"It was difficult that first year at the games," Wess said. "I felt like I didn't deserve to be there, but I'm glad I went. It was good to be around people you can relate with.
"Now when I talk to the young guys, I let them know they're not alone, that's it's not just their problem, it's our problem," he said. "It helps for them to talk to us who've been through it and see how we've progressed."
After 20 years of service, Wess' Air Force story of service and resiliency is coming to an end, something that seemed so far away at one point.
"Following the damage to my lungs, the doctor told me that I would be medically retired within a year," Wess said. "Here it is eight years later and I'm getting ready to retire in February. I would say that I won that one."