Now that Memorial Day has come and gone, we have put away our star-spangled banners and patriotic memorabilia that we have had on display.
However, far removed as the war in Afghanistan seems to many today, our troops are still there every day, putting their lives on the line in the service of our country. Unlike those who have direct relationships with those in military service, many of us do not see the impacts on those lives who have been so dramatically affected by the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
An inspirational event in Colorado Springs, Colo. recently demonstrated the resilience, courage and amazing responses to challenges faced by veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.
Our son-in law, Stephen Sanders, is a psychologist working with wounded warriors in Fort Carson, Colo. While visiting the Sanders family last month, we had the opportunity to attend the 2012 Warrior Games, which are hosted by the U.S. Olympic Committee at the Olympic Training Center and the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. More than 220 athletes from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Special Operations, and members of our Allied Forces competed in archery, cycling, wheelchair basketball, shooting, swimming, track and field, and sitting volleyball.
Army General Martin Dempsey paid tribute to these athletes, reminding us of what these service members endured during these wars and the ability of these wounded warriors to lead successful lives after returning home.
Some of the eligibility requirements for participation in these games are blindness, deafness, loss of limb, permanent disfigurement, post-traumatic stress disorder, severe burns, spinal cord injury, paralysis, traumatic brain injury, fatal or incurable disease, or any other condition requiring extensive hospitalizations or multiple surgeries.
Track and field events included blind veterans running with a seeing partner, each holding the end of a small rope to keep them together. Single and double amputees participated in wheelchair competitions, exhibiting incredible upper body musculature.
One particularly inspirational sight was that of an Army veteran running in the 1500-meter race on two prosthetic "legs." He came in last. Then there he was again in the mile race. Again he was last. But he never stopped running or competing or smiling.
On the sidelines athletes worked out, running, jumping and stretching to maintain their fitness and flexibility. Supporters were everywhere, providing water, energy bars and lots of encouragement.
The USO is a national organization which consistently demonstrates their commitment to supporting our armed forces and is a driving force in supporting the Games and competing athletes. There are also many state and local veterans' organizations which provide not only encouragement, but actual services to our troops.
Give2theTroops.org and www.pillowsforpatriots.org are two of many nonprofit organizations that support our military. Our own Lodi organization, www.lodisupportourtroops.com, accepts donations of goods that are then sent on to Afghanistan. We can show our appreciation to our military by supporting these organizations.
At the Opening Ceremonies, first lady Michelle Obama summed up what every American must feel about these wounded warriors: "Every competitor here has faced adversity that most of us can never imagine. But because of your hard work, because of your grit and resilience, today these challenges amplify all of you. I am humbled and inspired."
So as we head toward our Fourth of July celebrations and again place our American flags on our porches and sing about our "Star Spangled Banner," let us keep our veterans in our minds and hearts beyond that day, and remember that the freedoms we enjoy are hard fought and are being protected by those who serve on our behalf.
Cynthia Neely is a Lodi resident and retired city attorney.