George W. Bush cheers on 'invincible' veterans for '16 games

AP News
|
Posted: Dec 03, 2015 8:25 PM
George W. Bush cheers on 'invincible' veterans for '16 games

NEW YORK (AP) — Volleyball played without the use of two legs — that's a game former President George W. Bush cheered on Thursday aboard a one-time aircraft carrier that had survived kamikaze and torpedo attacks.

Bush is honorary chairman of the 2016 Invictus Games planned for Orlando, Florida, over one week in May. They'll bring together 500 military personnel and veterans from 15 countries competing in 10 sports adapted for special needs.

"One of the things I will do for the rest of my life is, work with our vets," said Bush, the commander in chief of U.S. troops that invaded Iraq in 2003.

The former president spoke aboard New York's Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, once the USS Intrepid that operated in the Pacific during World War II, withstanding five kamikaze attacks and a torpedo strike, and later served in Vietnam.

Bush watched teams of disabled athletes demonstrate what's called "sitting volleyball," sliding deftly on their backside across the court as the ball flew.

Britain's Prince Harry founded the Invictus Games in 2014, taking the name from the Latin word for "invincible." Businessman Ken Fisher is chair and CEO of the follow-up American games. He's known for building housing units across the country where military and veterans' families can stay at no cost while their loved ones are receiving treatment.

Some wounds are invisible.

The George W. Bush Institute, a Dallas-based public policy center, is now launching a new initiative to address traumatic brain injury and what Bush calls "post-traumatic stress," ensuring care and cutting the stigma often associated with these conditions.

Bush noted that he's not adding the word "disorder" because "it's an injury not a disorder. Injuries and illnesses can be cured, and disorders can't."

Next to him on the court stood Air Force Tech Sgt. Israel Del Toro, an amputee who suffered nerve damage and scarring from a 2005 explosion in Afghanistan that left his whole body in flames, near death.

In Orlando, participants in the games will discuss how to help returning servicemen and women overcome their injuries and improve outcomes for their transition back to civilian life.

"Yeah, we might have gotten hurt, but we're still pushing, we're still living, we're still competing, we'll still be teammates," said Del Toro.