It's the only competition of its kind in the Midwest. The third annual Valor Games kicked off at Soldier Field on Monday. A field of over 200 veterans and active military, all of them wounded in service, will prove over the next three days that disability is a state of mind.
"My motivation was my son. I wanted to show him, dad got jacked up at war but he's still here, having fun, living life, hanging out with his friends, cycling, shot-putting, power lifting. You just have to find what motivates you," said Sgt. Israel del Toro, U.S. Air Force.
The games, which started in Chicago and have now expanded to other cities, are meant, not just as a competition, but as a way to challenge wounded veterans as they return home.
"Whether it's cycling, archery, weight-lifting the goal here is that they learn skills that they take home. And they integrate back into society," said Dr. Tommy Sowers, Dept. of Veterans Affairs,
Taking place alongside the Valor Games is the sixth annual Illinois Warrior Summit which seeks to connect veterans to healthcare, employment, benefits and education.
"There are way more programs than there were when I joined in 1999. I like the feedback we're getting for the vets. They're not selling us. They're interested in seeing what will be beneficial for us," said Terry Thomas, National Guard Reserves.
Monday's opening ceremonies featured Retired Sergeant Noah Galloway. Despite losing his left arm and left leg in Iraq, Sgt. Galloway has gone on to run two full marathons, among many other competitions.
"It's reaching out to others, and all I want to do is motivate others to experience the same life I am, so I continue racing and pushing myself and hoping others will follow," said Ret. Sgt. Galloway.
The Valor Games continue over the next two days at Armour Square Park and will include archery, power-lifting, indoor rowing and field events.