JUNE 17, 2010

Theresa Chrystal competes in Wounded Warrior games

By Air Force Staff Sgt. Jessica Switzer

Theresa Chrystal   The daughter of an Orofino man competed with nearly 200 other injured service members in the inaugural Warrior Games at the U.S. Olympic Training Center, Colorado Springs, CO.

   Air National Guard Capt. Theresa M. Chrystal, daughter of Alvin Zierlein of Orofino, is an Air Force Wounded Warrior action officer with Headquarters Air Force Personnel Center, Air Force Wounded Warrior Program at Randolph Air Force Base, TX.

   The games were an introduction to official Paralympic sports for the athletes as well as building camaraderie and raising general awareness of Paralympic sports. There were seven main event categories participants could compete in: track and field, swimming, bicycling, archery, shooting, sitting volleyball and wheelchair basketball.

   "I'm here to make sure the athletes have everything they need," said Chrystal, a 1987 graduate of Hamilton High School, Hamilton, MT. She went on to earn a bachelor's degree in paralegal studies from the University Of Great Falls, MT in 2000. "I'm providing support to our wounded warriors through amazing events like the Warrior Games."

   Chrystal was cadre for the Air Force team. All of the athletes competing in the games have been wounded or injured in one way or another. Some carry outward physical reminders of their experiences, missing limbs, scars, or paralysis. Some carry their scars on the inside, in the form of Traumatic Brain Injuries, strokes or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. All of the athletes competed against others who were similarly disabled.

   "I work for in the Air Force Wounded Warrior program and I was actually involved in recruiting athletes for the Air Force team," said Chrystal. "I have a strong passion for helping our wounded warriors and educating people about what the program is and does."

   While participants competed in a number of individual events, they were also a member of a service unique team made up of prior or currently serving athletes and coaches.

   "I love watching the athletes compete, giving it their all, regardless of their injuries," said Chrystal, who joined the Air Force in 1991 and transitioned to the Air National Guard in 1995. "They have such a passion, for sports and life, that it's contagious. They've been a huge inspiration.

   "I was honored to be a part of the inaugural games and be among so many true heroes, who have sacrificed so much, and continue to give back without giving up," said Chrystal. "I love the friendly rivalry between the services. Everyone was so friendly and playing and living in this joint environment was a great experience. The Olympic Training Center and Air Force Academy locations were incredible and I am honored to have been a part of history here."

   Athletes came from across the United States to represent and compete for their services but while they were here, they became family as soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen cheered each other across the finish line. In these games, there may have been some who crossed last, but no one went home a loser.