Earlier this month Jon Stewart delivered powerful testimony on Capitol Hill, urging lawmakers to approve health care funding for 9/11 first responders and other victims of the attacks. Now the former host of “The Daily Show” is putting a spotlight on another deserving category: wounded service members.
This week Stewart is serving as the host and MC of the 2019 Department of Defense Warrior Games in Tampa, Fla., where about 300 wounded, ill or injured active-duty and veteran athletes from the United States, Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, Denmark, and the United Kingdom are competing in 14 adaptive sports.
The annual event, now in its 10th year, was established to help promote the recovery and rehabilitation of wounded military men and women and inspire others to do the same.
“What you see here, all these folks that don’t allow their worst day to define them,” Stewart told Yahoo News, “it’s just incredible.”
Stewart, who has hosted the games since 2016, said the camaraderie transcends the competition.
“When you’re in the military, look, it’s a very small percentage of our society, so it’s already somewhat isolated,” he said. “Then you get hurt. Now you’re isolated from your unit, your platoon, your family. And now, all of a sudden, you find a community that’s experiencing the exact same thing.”
Travis Dunn, a former U.S. Army Ranger, was shot in the upper torso during a six-hour firefight in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, on Dec. 2, 2014. The bullet traveled through his armpit, severed his spinal cord and left him paralyzed from the waist down.
“I didn’t come to the realization of it, uh, until a couple months later, ’cause I was just on the pain medication,” Dunn said. “After I was done with all my rehab, that first probably couple months, I started to kinda realize that, you know, this was gonna be a forever thing. This was, this was how it was, this is how it was gonna be, you know, for the rest of my life.”
The 29-year-old discovered the Warrior Games after moving to Tampa with his wife, Kelley. The couple have a 15-month-old daughter, Sadie.
“I didn’t know what exactly I was gonna be capable of after my injury,” Dunn said. “It kinda opened my eyes that I can do a lot of things still.”
Dunn, who competes in archery, track and wheelchair basketball, said the games bring out the competitive nature in each athlete.
“We’re going out there, and dudes are just crushing each other,” he said. “Competition brings out the best in everybody. ’Cause nobody wants to lose. Everybody goes to win.”
“It’s intense competition,” he said. “But the real value of it is the brother- and sisterhood that evolves from it. The connections that they make with other people.”
For Stewart, his participation in the games is a no-brainer.
“You have to demonstrate that if they’re there for us, we’re there for them,” he said. “No matter what.”
Video produced by Sam Matthews and Brad Williams