USO, San Diego Community Host Wounded Allies During Marine Corps Trials
Tuesday, March 05, 2013
By Joseph Andrew Lee
America has received a lot of help from allied nations the last 12 years.
Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Australia, Canada, Columbia and New Zealand – just to name a few – have fought alongside America's troops in the Mideast.
Wounded troops from those eight nations are in Camp Pendleton this week to motivate their comrades, helping them drive athletic competition to new levels.
The Marine Corps Trials – which is supported by USO San Diego – is the Marine Corps' way to select its 50 best wounded, ill and injured athletes to compete against the other U.S. armed services at May's Warrior Games, a Paralympics-style sports competition, in Colorado Springs. Events include sitting volleyball, wheelchair basketball, swimming, cycling, shooting, archery, and track and field.
More than 100 wounded allied troops from eight countries arrived in San Diego last week. For many, it was their first time visiting the United States.
"Like anyone visiting for the first time, they wanted that American experience," said John Dooley, CEO of USO San Diego. "Of all San Diego's attractions, what's more iconic than Sea World?"
Sea World already treats American troops to free visits, so USO San Diego asked the park to extend that privilege to allied troops who were wounded serving alongside Americans.
"They didn't even flinch," Dooley said. "They said 'Of course. No problem.' Which is absolutely awesome and a true testament to the patriotism of the San Diego community."
"It was a big surprise to us, because we have never been [to Sea World] before," said Colombian Capt. Miguel Perdomo. "We came here for competition, and we were excited to find out we were going to get the chance to see Sea World. It was so beautiful and such a wonderful gift."
Transportation was also provided free of charge from Seabreeze Shuttle and Advanced Shuttle.
After a day at Sea World, the allied troops, Marine Corps liaisons and USO volunteers were all treated to an evening in Little Italy, courtesy of the Little Italy Association.
"Little Italy was a unique experience," said Marine Master Gunnery Sgt. Terry Jones, Allied Officer in Charge at Wounded Warrior Regiment.
According to Jones, 17 restaurants in Little Italy opened their menus for up to 10 guests.
"They really rolled out the red carpet for us," Jones added. "It was just top-of-the-line service, and with that, the USO really set the tone for the rest of the competition, because when those same USO volunteers appeared days later, the rapport had already been established and the USO just became 'Johnny-on-the-spot' by making everyone feel more welcome and comfortable."
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Photo caption: Allies enjoy an evening of entertainment and welcomes from the Residents, businessmen and community of Little Italy in Basilone Park before going to dinner. (Photo courtesy of volunteer Dian Self of USO San Diego)
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