CHARLESTON, W.Va. — This year’s Department of Defense Warrior Games are underway in Tampa, Florida, with around 300 athletes from all branches of the military competing in an array of athletic competitions.

This includes U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Melinda Smith from Ridgeley, West Virginia. She said she is humbled to have the honor to compete and see other athletes overcome their injuries.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Melinda Smith

“Getting involved into it kind of gets your mind off of things,” she said. “When you’re in the competition, you’re in the competition with a lot of other wounded warriors. We’re all the same.”

Athletes who are eligible for the Warrior Games include wounded or injured service members. Smith developed multiple sclerosis while she was deployed in 2014, which resulted in her being paralyzed on the left side. She said she became involved in the Air Force Wounded Warrior program in 2015, and she competed in her first Warrior Games in 2017.

One thing Smith has been eager about is the comradery of the games, which she said highlights the strength and resiliency of veterans.

“I had a whole other group of friends before I came back,” she said. “This is my family.”

For Smith, this year’s event is bittersweet; she recently got married and shortly after her wedding her mother had a stroke and passed away.

Smith said she is dedicating this Warrior Games to her mother.

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