Veterans prepare for Warrior Games in Chicago

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Warrior Games are coming to Chicago. The opening ceremony takes place July 1 at Soldier Field.

This will be the first time the public will be able to watch the military athletes in action.

When the Warrior Games come to Chicago, it's about more than sports.

"Spread that spirit that, that human spirit of never giving up, keep on fighting," Master Sgt. Israel "DT" Del Toro, Warrior Games Athlete, said.

And that's exactly what Del Toro, of New Lenox, has done. He survived a roadside bomb in Afghanistan 11 years ago. This summer, he'll compete in front of his entire family for the first time. He hopes to impact everyone.

"That's the major goal for the Warrior Games in Chicago, to help inspire even more people," he said.

Del Toro, who is still on active duty, has been part of the Department of Defense Warrior Games since it started in 2010.

Petty Officer 1st Class Ryan Shannon of Coal City is a newcomer, competing in his second games.

"I didn't get shot, I didn't get blown up, I did run into a burning submarine," Shannon said.

And that experience as a Navy sailor, left Shannon with an invisible injury. It left him with PTSD.

"I didn't want to live anymore," he said.

Competing, and this week, participating in a photo shoot for the upcoming games, has helped him look at his life and those around him.

"It's changed every one of our lives," Shannon said.

And that's so true for Sarah Rudder, a Marine who recovered bodies at the Pentagon after September 11. She has the tattoo and it's running in the games that set her mind free.

"I realized during that 100 meters that was the first time I thought about nothing, absolutely nothing. My mind was clear," Rudder said.

Rudder broke her foot at the Pentagon. Doctors tried to save it for 13 years. And then amputated it.

"When I went to the Warrior Games, I realized, why am I feeling sorry for myself?" she said.

So that's why they'll compete in Chicago. For the camaraderie, support, healing and moving forward.

"Being around veterans again, being around them felt I was being part of my family again," she said.

"I think we do it to prove, not only to ourselves but to everybody else, maybe we aren't broken, maybe we're just a little damage. That's all. We can keep going," Shannon said.

And they want people to be a part of it.

"Come out, you'll never experienced anything like it," Del Toro said.

The games run June 30 through July 8. Tickets will be available for the opening ceremony.

All the sporting events will be free and open to the public.

ABC7 is a proud partner of the Warrior Games.
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