By D.P. Heard, 55th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published July 12, 2019
U.S. Air Force wounded warrior athlete Capt. (Ret.) Rob Hufford throws a discus during the discus field event of the Department of Defense Warrior Games in Tampa, Fla., June 23, 2019. The Warrior Games features wounded warrior athletes who compete in multiple sporting events representing their respective military branches. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Caleb Nunez)
Lawrence Hufford, U.S. Air Force wounded warrior athlete attempts to lift 405 pounds during the power weightlifting competition at the Air Force Warrior Games Trials held at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada on Feb. 23, 2018. Hufford won the men’s event with a lift of 355 pounds. The Air Force Trails is an adaptive and resiliency sporting event designed to promote the mental and physical well-being of the participants. (U.S. Air Force photo by Lawrence Crespo)
Tech. Sgt. (Ret.) Melissa Nueva prepares to bench press during a powerlifting competition, June 24, 2019, in Tampa, Florida. Nueva is also competing in cycling, swimming and shooting during the 2019 Department of Defense Warrior Games. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Sahara L. Fales)
Two Wounded Warriors representing Offutt Air Force Base participated in this year’s Department of Defense Warrior Games June 21 through 30, in Tampa, Florida.
Ten teams comprised of approximately 300 athletes from around the world played in the games. From the U.S. the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and U.S. Special Operations Command formed teams to compete. The remaining five teams were from Australia, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
The games were established in 2010 as a way of showing the benefits sports competition can bring the lives of sick and wounded service members. The individual and team sports at this year’s games were archery, cycling, field events, golf, indoor rowing, powerlifting, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming, track events, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby and wheelchair tennis.
Representing the Offutt community this year was Retired U.S. Master Sgt. Melissa Nueva who competed in cycling, powerlifting, shooting, swimming; and retired U.S. Air Force Captain Lawrence Hufford who competed in archery, field, indoor rowing, powerlifting, swimming.
Hufford won gold in the shot put, bench press, and 1-minute row; silver in discus and the team archery recurve shoot.
Now a lead engineer with the 55th Civil Engineer Squadron, Hufford battled invisible wounds and recovered from brain surgery to get where he is now.
In this year’s games, Hufford won gold in shot put, lifting, and the 1-minute row; and silver in discus and the team archery recurve shoot.
Hufford is in training for the Invictus Games that will be held in May of 2020 in the Netherlands. He also spends his time coaching warrior game hopefuls.
Nueva’s story is one of a warrior fighting against the odds. With the help of Hufford and many others, she was able to fight a Lupus diagnosis and the subsequent treatment sessions to achieve the improved health and positive outlook that she now enjoys.
“When I heard my name get called, when they announced the team, I don’t even know how to explain it,” Nueva said. “It was better than any promotion! Being accepted and knowing you’re going to the games.”
Sometimes there are bad days, but when she speaks of her journey, enthusiasm, joy and appreciation for the new life she lives can be seen in her eyes.
“It’s been awesome working with Melissa over the past year and watching her grow both physically and mentally,” Hufford said. “She is the definition of a Warrior. She has an amazing drive, perseverance and resiliency. Her smile and attitude are contagious and push me to be a better Athlete and Coach.”
Nueva can be seen here beaming with pride during her interview after earning a Silver Medal in this year’s Prone Open Rifle Competition. She also competed in powerlifting, cycling and swimming.
To read more about Hufford’s story visit this link.