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American Samoan Lieutenant channels his inner warrior

U.S. Coast Guard Lt. Daniel Lee participates in the 2018 Department of Defense Warrior Games

Colorado Springs, COLORADO — Imagine, in a matter of seconds, the world as you know it is changed forever. How will you adapt? How will you let it affect you? Will you allow the change to control you or will you use it to fuel your motivation and not hold you back? Some things we can’t control, but we can always control how we choose to face our circumstances.

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

The Air Force hosted the 2018 Warrior Games June 1-9 at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. 

Teams included approximately 300 active-duty service members and veterans with upper-body, lower-body, and spinal cord injuries; traumatic brain injuries; visual impairment; serious illnesses; and post-traumatic stress. 

These athletes represented the United States Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Special Operations Command, the U.K. Armed Forces, Australian Defense Force and Canadian Armed Forces. They went head-to-head in 11 sports including, archery, cycling, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming, track and field, and wheelchair basketball, indoor rowing, powerlifting, and time trial cycling.

In American Samoa, warrior is translated to “toa”.

Among the competing athletes was Coast Guard Lt. Dan Lee, a 1994 graduate of Marist High School in Malaeloa, American Samoa.

 Lee, now a resident of Palm Harbor, Florida, says the Warrior Games are about being a part of a team again and not fighting his battle solo.

“Whenever I'm around my teammates, I feel very comfortable and not alone,” said Lee. “Adaptive sports gave me the opportunity to get out of my depression and hopelessness.”

After his direct commissioning, Lee was first stationed at the Electronic Support Unit in Honolulu. He then went on to headquarters in Washington D.C., naval post-grad school for cybersecurity and to the Department of Homeland Security Cyber and Intelligence office in Stennis, Mississippi. 

In 2014, Lee suffered temporary paralysis after a bike accident while training for a race. Two years later, he was involved in a sporting injury and suffered a traumatic brain injury, broke multiple bones in his face, both knees and tore his right shoulder. Because of these injuries, Lee has balance issues which is why he competes with the modified bike and on the wheelchair track.

Lee was selected for Team Navy after the competitive Wounded Warrior Trials in February at Naval Base Mayport in Mayport, Florida. During the nine-day event, he competed in track, cycling swimming, and sitting volleyball. Lee brought home three gold medals; two in track and the other with the sitting volleyball team.

"Our Navy Wounded Warrior athletes have shown incredible resiliency in their personal roads to recovery through the adaptive sports program. The actions of these athletes demonstrate the Navy’s core attributes of integrity, accountability, initiative, and toughness," said Vice Adm. Mary Jackson, commander, Navy Installations Command. "The Chief of Naval Operations has said that 'we will remain the world's finest Navy only if we all fight each and every minute to get better,' there is no better example of this performance than what our Sailors and Coast Guardsmen in the Navy Wounded Warrior Program do each and every day."

Adaptive sports have helped Lee by helping him accept the injury that he has and that he may never be the same.

“Adaptive sports gave me the opportunity to try out new sports that I have never thought of,” said Lee. “It is basically a new beginning and a new chapter in my life.”

The Navy honors the sacrifices of wounded warriors from the Navy and Coast Guard by providing them top-notch, non-medical support through Navy Wounded Warrior (NWW) – Safe Harbor. All enrollees in NWW are encouraged to make athletics a key component of their recovery efforts. By promoting wounded warrior participation in competitions like the DoD Warrior Games, NWW helps enrollees heal through adaptive sports.

“I have invisible wounds that no one can see. But since joining the adaptive sports, I feel like I belong to a team like I used to before getting injured,” said Lee.

Lt. Daniel Lee will be going on to compete in the Invictus games this October in Sydney, Australia. Lee will be competing in cycling, sitting volleyball, cycle swimming and wheelchair track.

For more information about the 2018 DoD Warrior Games, please visit