Military & Veterans News

Cover Story: Servicemembers and Their Families On Display at the Paris Olympic & Paralympic Games

Paris Olympic & Paralympic Games 2024

The 2024 Paris Olympics are gearing up as we enter July, and several Team USA athletes are also united in their military service to our nation. As they train this week to compete on the world stage in France July 26-August 11, many eyes are also on the most noteworthy military family member, and 4-time Olympic gold medalist, Simone Biles.

In the 2020 Tokyo Games, which were postponed to 2021 due to the pandemic, 17 soldiers, a Marine, and one coast guardsman earned coveted spots to compete, according to the Department of Defense. Star gymnast Biles, whose adoptive father Ron Biles is a United States Air Force veteran, competed then but withdrew due to mental health reasons.

“I am so proud of my father, who served in the Air Force for 21 years,” she told US Weekly about Ron Biles, who is also her grandfather. 

BilesBiles will go for gold again in Paris and is the first American woman to qualify for three Olympic teams since Dominique Dawes. 

In addition, several soldiers aiming to qualify this year hail from the Army World Class Athlete Program (WCAP). Sgt. 1st Class Spenser Mango (pictured, left), one of the Army WCAP Greco-Roman coaches, was named Team USA Greco-Roman Coach of the Year for the fourth time and praised the WCAP program.

“WCAP is immensely important to the Army,” Mango said. “Every time I go to speak at schools, the kids think the Army is infantry. But when I tell them that we can do all these cool things, I’m traveling the world coaching wrestling, the Army has been such a huge help. A lot of people don’t know about it. I’m getting to do something I love to do and make a living off it.”

Earlier this week, two members of the Army WCAP competed at the 2024 USA Track and Field Olympic Trials. Sgt. Anthony Rotich and Spc. Benard Keter finished 8th and 9th place in the Men's 3,000-meter Steeplechase. Rotich finished with a time of 8:30.14 while Keter finished in a time of 8:32.82. Spc. Kamal Bey, Sgt. Ellis Coleman, and Spc. Dalton Roberts won the Greco-Roman wrestling U.S. Olympic Wrestling Trials in April but unfortunately didn’t move on past the World Olympic Qualifier in Istanbul, Turkey in May.

Four Fort Moore, Georgia soldiers did secure spots in Paris, however, with two showcasing their expertise in both air rifle and smallbore and two demonstrating their precision in trap shooting.

Rachel TozierStaff Sgts. Rachel Tozier (pictured, right) and Will Hinton qualified for the 2024 Olympic Games during the USA Shooting Shotgun Olympic Trials – Part 2 held in Tucson, Arizona from March 11-17. Sergeants Sagen Maddalena and Ivan Roe earned berths in the 50m Smallbore event, following their performances at the USA Shooting Smallbore Rifle/Pistol Olympic Trials – Part 3 held, March 17-19.

“These Soldiers embody living the Army values through their dedication to excellence and unwavering commitment," Maj. Gen. Johnny Davis, U.S. Army Recruiting Command commanding general said. "Their journey not only shows their hard work but also highlights the extraordinary opportunities the Army provides. They are a true testament to the spirit and capability of our military personnel both on and off the Olympic stage.”

28-year old Montana native Sgt. Roe was 7 years old when his father signed him up for hunter's safety education where he fell in love with the sport of shooting. He won the 50m Rifle 3 Position at the 2022 Championships of the America and the Mixed Team 50m Prone Rifle at 2022 ISSF World Championships, but this will be his first Olympic Games. He expressed his excitement in representing his country in this way.

“Representing the U.S. is—it’s a dream I’ve had since I was a little kid,” Roe said. “So, it’s a culmination of everything I’ve been doing the last two decades. It’s a huge, huge milestone.”

Paralympic Games

After the Olympic Games, the Paralympic Games will take center stage. One of the noteworthy competitors is the U.S. Army’s own Spc Elizabeth Marks (pictured, at the top of the article) in swimming. Marks, injured in Iraq in 2010, has medaled multiple times at the Paralympic and Invictus Games, and hopes to win the gold again at the Paris games.

When she competed in the rescheduled 2020 Tokyo Summer Paralympic Games, Marks won gold in the 100-meter backstroke, silver in the 50-meter freestyle and bronze in the 50-meter butterfly.

Postscript: Some people confuse the Special Olympics with the Paralympics. There are several differences between the two organizations, but the main difference is that the Special Olympics showcases those with intellectual disabilities, while the Paralympics focuses on individuals with physical disabilities. WeSalute Advisory Board member and two-time Olympic gold medalist Donna DeVarona is a board member of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee. She also serves on the executive board of Special Olympics International and is a member of the International Olympic Committee's Women and Sports Commission 

Note: Donna’s spouse John Pinto is a proud Army Veteran.

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