1. Military

SOCom and Tampa gearing up for Defense Department's Warrior Games, coming here in June

The Warrior Games were established in 2010 to enhance the recovery and rehabilitation of wounded, ill and injured warriors and to expose them to adaptive sports.
Medically retired Marine Corps Sgt. Mike Nicholson of Tampa prepares to start a wheelchair race during the 2017 Department of Defense Warrior Games in Chicago.
Medically retired Marine Corps Sgt. Mike Nicholson of Tampa prepares to start a wheelchair race during the 2017 Department of Defense Warrior Games in Chicago.
Published Jan. 15, 2019

In a little more than six months, some 300 adaptive sports athletes from around the military and about 1,000 of their family members will converge on Tampa to take part in the Defense Department's Warrior Games.

That may not seem like a ton of time, but given that U.S. Special Operations Command is hosting the event this year, those planning the adaptive sports competition are confident that the plan will come together.

"We are very thankful for the community support," said Army Maj. Anthony Mayne, a command spokesman. "We have the ability to do almost every sporting event out in the public and that would not happen without the cooperation of everyone from the mayor's office on down."

And, in case folks need a reminder, Jon Stewart, former host of The Daily Show and a big supporter of veterans and first responders, is scheduled to ride the Warrior Games float in the Jan. 26 Gasparilla daytime parade, Mayne told me.


Opening and closing ceremonies are scheduled for Amalie Arena, while other events will be held at the Tampa Convention Center and locations around the area. Mayne said the big effort right now is planning how to move so many people to so many venues.

"An army travels on its belly and you can never overlook logistics," he said. "We have done all the macro planning and now we are into the micro details. We continue to find points of friction and find ways to resolve them."

Next month, representatives from the five military services will come to Tampa for a Defense Department-wide planning conference "so they can see the venues and facilities and start their own preparations as well," said Mayne.

Meanwhile, as SOCom plans things out, the Warrior Games Committee, a group representing local politicians, veterans groups, Gold and Blue Star families, businesses and community organizations, held its second meeting Monday morning.

"In terms of organizing people to spread the word, I think that we are, to quote Tony Bennett, 'just in time,'" said Tampa City Councilman Luis Viera, who has been heading that effort.

The meeting was "very productive," said Viera. "About 65 people came together to talk about ways to promote this wonderful patriotic effort to our larger Tampa community. The real challenge now is to go into the different sectors of our larger Tampa community and promote this amazing effort so that when these heroes come to Tampa in June to compete, they will be welcomed in every way possible. It's the least we can do for these men and women."

Viera said the group broke into committees, which are scheduled to report back in a month.

"The main idea is that when these men and women compete in these games, we want to make sure that grateful Tampanians are there cheering them on and encouraging them," he said, clearly taking a stand on what to call folks from Glorious Tampastan. "These men and women have gone through hell and now are proudly competing in competitive sports. This is a very emotional process for them and we should have their back."

SOCom's Mayne said that by next month, the command will be pushing for volunteers, especially those willing to help in the logistics realm.


The Warrior Games were established in 2010 as a way to enhance the recovery and rehabilitation of wounded, ill and injured warriors and to expose them to adaptive sports.

For its first four years, it was held at the U.S. Olympic Committee's facility in Colorado Springs, Colo. Now, it's hosted by the individual services in a rotation that includes SOCom. The athletes will square off in 14 events, including archery, wheelchair basketball, cycling, track and field, and swimming. There will be three new events this year — golf, wheelchair rugby and wheelchair tennis.

In addition to the athletes and families, about 1,000 staffers and coaches also will attend, making the event a win-win for the tourism business.

If you'd like to help, email or call (813 826-2854).


The Pentagon announced no new deaths in ongoing operations last week.

There have been 2,347 U.S. troop deaths in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan; 61 U.S. troop deaths and one civilian Department of Defense employee death in support of the follow-up, Operation Freedom's Sentinel; 56 troop deaths and two civilian deaths in support of Operation Inherent Resolve; one troop death in support of Operation Odyssey Lightning, the fight against Islamic State in Libya; one troop death in support of Operation Joint Guardian, one death classified as other contingency operations in the global war on terrorism; one death in Operation Octave Shield and six deaths in ongoing operations in Africa where, if they have a title, officials will not divulge it.

Contact Howard Altman at or (813) 225-3112 . Follow @haltman


  1. This undated file photo provided by the FBI shows Mohammed Alshamrani. The United States is preparing to remove more than a dozen Saudi military students from a training program and return them to their home country after an investigation into a deadly shooting by Saudi aviation student Alshamrani at a Florida navy base in December 2019, a U.S. official told The Associated Press. [AP]
    Many of the 21 cadets had contact with child pornography and possessed jihadist or anti-American material, William Barr said.
  2. MacDill Air Force Base now requires all visitors looking to enter the base to show either Department of Defense ID or valid photo ID with a base pass. [Air Force photo] [HANDOUT  |  Air Force]
    U.S. installations have increased security as tensions with Iran run high, and that includes the bases and veterans’ facilities in the Tampa Bay area.
  3. MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa was briefly on lockdown Friday morning after reports of an armed person near the Tanker Way Gage. The lockdown has been lifted and all gates except the Tanker Way Gate have been lifted. [Times (2018)]
    McDill Air Force Base is investigating a report of an armed person, but a lockdown at the base has been lifted
  4. Rescue workers carry the body of a victim of an Ukrainian plane crash among debris of the plane in Shahedshahr, southwest of the capital Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020. A Ukrainian airplane carrying 176 people crashed on Wednesday shortly after takeoff from Tehran's main airport, killing all onboard. (AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi) [EBRAHIM NOROOZI  |  AP]
    The cause of the crash is currently under investigation
  5. Coffins of Gen. Qassem Soleimani and others who were killed in Iraq by a U.S. drone strike, are carried on a truck surrounded by mourners during a funeral procession, in the city of Kerman, Iran, Tuesday, Jan. 7, 2020. A stampede erupted on Tuesday at a funeral procession for a top Iranian general killed in a U.S. airstrike last week, killing 35 people and injuring 48 others, state television reported. (AP Photo) [AP]
    The stampede took place in Kerman, the hometown of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, as the procession got underway.
  6. Traci Lenz said this is what her kitchen vent looked like even after mold remediation at her MacDill Air Force Base home. [Courtesy of Traci Lenz]
    Over the last year, families reported mold and other problems in military housing at MacDill and other bases.
  7. A woman mourns in a demonstration over the U.S. airstrike in Iraq that killed Iranian Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Tehran, Iran, Friday. Iran has vowed "harsh retaliation" for the U.S. airstrike near Baghdad's airport that killed Tehran's top general and the architect of its interventions across the Middle East, as tensions soared in the wake of the targeted killing. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi) [VAHID SALEMI  |  AP]
    Iran vowed “harsh retaliation” for a U.S. airstrike near Baghdad’s airport that killed a top Iranian general.
  8. Soldiers board a C-17 aircraft Wednesday, Jan. 1, 2020 at Fort Bragg, N.C., to be deployed in Iraq. (Melissa Sue Gerrits/The Fayetteville Observer via AP) [MELISSA SUE GERRITS  |  AP]
    The President ordered about 750 U.S. soldiers deployed to the Middle East as about 3,000 more prepare for possible deployment in the next several days.
  9. U.S. soldiers fire tear gas towards protesters who broke into the U.S. embassy compound, in Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019. Dozens of angry Iraqi Shiite militia supporters broke into the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad on Tuesday after smashing a main door and setting fire to a reception area, prompting tear gas and sounds of gunfire. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed) [KHALID MOHAMMED  |  AP]
    The embassy attack, one of the worst in recent memory, followed deadly U.S. airstrikes on Sunday that killed 25 fighters of the Iran-backed militia in Iraq, the Kataeb Hezbollah.
  10. Those who play in a foursome with Julius Okrzesik marvel at how straight he drives the ball. The World War II veteran, 99, is also regarded as one of the better putters at the Bardmoor Golf and Tennis Club in Seminole. [MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE  |  Times]
    Julius Okrzesik, who flew 87 missions over Europe, never misses a round of golf with his buddies each Tuesday.