There was a special feeling of excitement and competition Wednesday evening as a crowd of about 250 people gathered at Crisler Center to watch a basketball game that was slightly different than the usual games played at the arena.
Members of the University and military communities gathered for the third annual Army vs. Navy wheelchair basketball game. The event was the culmination of the University’s Investing in Ability Week, a disability awareness initiative organized by the University’s Council for Disability Concerns.
The event included performances by the Men’s Glee Club, the University Dance Team, Tri-Service Color Guard and the 338th Army Band. Student volunteers from the Maize Rage, Circle K and the Men’s Swimming and Diving team also helped facilitate the event.
University Regent Katherine White (D–Ann Arbor), the event’s grand marshal, gave the opening remarks. As a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army reserves and a reserve instructor of law at the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., she said she feels a personal connection to the veterans and to Wednesday’s game.
“We are here tonight to raise awareness in our community about those with disabilities and to celebrate the veterans we have within our community,” White said.
In addition to praising the veterans, White took time to thank the families and relatives of the veterans, many of whom were in attendance at the event.
“The demands placed on those who serve in the armed forces deeply affect family members and most service members and veterans could not accomplish what they do without family support,” White said.
White also commented on the positive impact that veterans continue to make on the University community.
“It is your life experiences that significantly broaden the perspectives of our campus community,” she said. “There are certain things learned in military service and experienced in military service that are very difficult to learn and experience anywhere else.”
Teams for the event were comprised of student-veterans from the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University, as well as veterans from the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office. Four official wheelchair team players were also on each team.
While many of the veterans competing actively embraced the enjoyable nature of the event, there was no lack of competitive drive on either side. The Navy Midshipmen looked to defend their 2011 title, while the Army Cadets looked for a repeat of their 2010 victory.
Navy scored the first points of the game after rebounding off a failed shot attempt, but Army quickly evened the score with a breakaway basket.
As time wore on in the first period, both the pace and physicality of the game increased, with several more breakaway baskets, including an early score by Scot Severn, a U.S. Paralympic athlete and former Army reservist at Camp Grayling in Grayling Township, Mich.
The back-and-forth action lead to a tied score of 8-8 at the end of the first quarter. A pair of steals and clutch baskets in the last 30 seconds of the half, however, gave the Midshipmen an 18-14 lead.
Even and consistent play in the third quarter brought the score to 24-21 in favor of the Midshipmen. They controlled the remainder of the game and won their second second consecutive title with a final score of 32-27.
Event organizer Gerald Hoff, an insurance verification representative for the University Health System, said the event served as a means for the University to support veterans, both with and without disabilities, and urged students to get to know veterans at the University.
“The veterans that we have here on our campus are second to none,” Hoff said. “They are terrific young men and women.”