When District 7 Tampa City Council member Luis Viera, who represents New Tampa, read about the exploits of Tampa’s Mike Nicholson in the Department of Defense (DoD) Warrior Games, he remembers being moved.
Despite losing three limbs in Afghanistan n 2017, Nicholson picked up the pieces of his life and won an incredible six gold medals at the competition.
Nicholson, a retired Marine Corps Sgt., then set off on another goal — to bring the games to his hometown.
Viera was ready to jump at the chance to help. He volunteered to head up a large committee of individuals to promote the Warrior Games, which will be held June 21-30 at various locations in Tampa.
“For what so many of them have sacrificed, we should welcome them with open arms,” Viera says. “I’ll be darned if there’s empty seats at these events. We owe it to these people to cheer them on.”
The opening ceremony will be held tonight, June 22, 7 p.m.-9 p.m., at Amalie Arena, and will be hosted by former “The Daily Show” host Jon Stewart (pictured, right, at last year’s games), with music by Grammy-nominated country singer Hunter Hayes.
The Warrior Games were created in 2010 as a way to help with the recovery and rehabilitation of wounded veterans and expose them to adaptive sports.
More than 300 wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans are expected to compete at this year’s games.
All four branches of the U.S. Military will be represented, as well as athletes from the United Kingdom Armed Forces, Australian Defence Force, Canadian Armed Forces, Armed Forces of the Netherlands and the Danish Armed Forces.
There will be head-to-head competition in 14 sports, including — for the first time — golf, wheelchair tennis and even wheelchair rugby.
The University of South Florida will host a number of events during the games:
• Track events will be held at the USF Tampa campus on Saturday, June 22, 7 a.m.-3 p.m., with field events the following day, 8 a.m.-6 p.m.
• The wheelchair tennis competition will be held at USF’s courts on Sunday, June 23, 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
• The sitting volleyball finals will be held Sunday, June 30, noon- 4 p.m., at the Yuengling Center on N. 30th St.
• Amalie Arena, the Tampa Convention Center, Macdill Air Force Base and the Eagles Golf Course in Odessa also will host competitions in other sports.
A complete schedule is available at DoDWarriorGames.com/schedule.
Viera started a New Tampa Veterans Association as one of his first actions after being elected to his City Council seat in 2017. A longtime supporter of the military and veterans, it is Viera’s hope that those competing in the Warrior Games do so in front of large and receptive crowds.
“I think this is a very patriotic community,” Viera says. “And we have a lot of veterans in New Tampa that I think would like to see these heroes compete.”
For information about attending the Warrior Games closing ceremonies, visit AmalieArena.com. To learn more about the Warrior Games, visit DoDWarriorGames.com.