May 23, 2013
Read senior Connor Hanafee's first-person account of volunteering with the Army wrestling team at the Special Olympics last month at West Point's Shea Stadium.
This past year marked the third consecutive year that the Army wrestling team worked the javelin station at the West Point Special Olympics. I took a short break from working the station so I could take some Advil. The boys and I had been yelling and cheering for a few hours, and by year three, I had significant trouble keeping up with my younger teammates like Curtis Garner, Alex Dahl, Javier Rodriguez and the other high-octane wrestlers.
I crouched down over my bag blindly digging around in search of a specifically shaped object. I overheard a woman standing close to me as she remarks to another woman, "I am not sure who those guys at the javelin station are, but I think they are on something."
I laughed in my head and cracked a half smile that showed my understanding of her thought process. I looked at her and said, "No ma'am, those are my wrestlers." Unfazed by my interjection, she quickly replied, "Oh, well that makes sense."
After finishing the short conversation with this woman, I thought about her last statement. I guess wrestlers are a little bit of a different breed. We are high-intensity, ultra-dedicated combat sport athletes. We have an innate desire to be hard-charging and outperform everyone around us. So at the Special Olympics in 2011, we started doing exactly that. Something that started as a collection of small nuances to make people laugh, smile and marvel at our craziness has turned into a tradition that we repeat about 50 times throughout the course of a Special Olympics day. Our trademark human tunnels, guys jumping around doing cartwheels and post-competition "Champion" breakdowns are now set in stone. They are part of a tradition that will not change as long as Army wrestling works the javelin station. They have become traditions that our team, spectators and athletes love and cherish.
I had a number of people approach me and express how much they love what we do every year. They ask me how my boys have so much energy. It actually doesn't take much, because it isn't work, it's an honor. It is an honor to be an integral part of something so special. To end a day knowing that me and my teammates had a direct impact on another human's happiness is one of the best feelings in the world. Especially at an institution where we get a little wrapped up in ourselves as busy cadets, the Special Olympics is a beautiful reminder of the power of true happiness.
Thank you to my teammates and fellow cadets for their everlasting energy and selfless nature. Thank you to the organizers of the West Point Special Olympics for their support of such a great cause. Most importantly, thank you to the athletes; thank you for an annual reminder how simplicity and a smile is often the best way to quell of the complexities of life.