Major Jesse Stewart addresses first-time national team athletes at USSA's Rookie Camp in Park City, UT.
Drive. Passion. Sacrifice. These are just a few things that Olympic athletes have in common with past and present military members. The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association’s (USSA) Military Mentorship Program (MMP) brings veterans, active-duty service members and elite athletes together to reflect on those commonalities and share their experiences.
During USSA’s annual Rookie Camp, Major Jesse Stewart and first-time national team members shared stories of triumph, defeat and teamwork. Major Stewart was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant through ROTC at the University of Washington in 2002. Shortly after graduating from the U.S. Army Ranger School, he was sent to the 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg, NC. Upon his arrival at Fort Bragg in March of 2003, Major Stewart was immediately deployed to Kuwait to participate in the invasion of Iraq. He completed three more deployments before retiring due to injuries sustained in combat.
“I think two of the biggest ways members of the military and elite-level athletes can relate to each other is through training for a major event—like the Olympics or going to war—and recovering from injury,” stated Stewart. “These scenarios are commonplace for both groups, and it was great to hear their stories and share mine with them. We have a lot to learn from each other.”
Major Stewart also talked about how he and his fellow soldiers rarely had the chance to watch TV, but would always tune in to the Olympics. This story in particular demonstrated to the athletes how influential their sports are on a global scale.
"It helped me remember that when I go out and race internationally, I'm racing for more than just myself,” said U.S. Alpine Ski Team rookie River Radamus. "The dedication and courageousness they show by going into battles is reassuring and inspiring to me."