Bears players Charles Leno Jr. and Jerrell Freeman were among the celebrities who participated in a wheelchair basketball game Friday night at the United Center.
The exhibition contest was part of the 2017 Department of Defense Warrior Games and also featured comedians Jon Stewart and Jeff Garlin, actors and other pro athletes.
“I chose to come out because it puts things in perspective for me,” Leno said. “These guys protected our country, served our country, and I just have to show respect for them. It’s always good to give back to others.”
While Leno played in the wheelchair basketball game, Freeman helped coach one of the teams. The veteran linebacker enjoyed the time he spent with the wounded warriors.
“It was great to interact with those guys, before [the game] talking to them and then being able to go out there and see those guys compete and have fun,” Freeman said. “It was just a really fun time out there. It made me feel good.
“I’ve done a lot of things with the military. I go on hospital visits. I’m a big military guy. My grandfather is in the military, so it’s big for me. It’s very satisfying to me to be able to help and give back to whatever they need.”
The Warrior Games were held June 30-July 8 in Chicago and featured about 265 wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans representing teams from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and U.S. Special Operations Command, as well as the United Kingdom Armed Forces and the Australian Defence Force.
According to the Warrior Games website, teams were comprised of 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. Events included archery, cycling, sitting volleyball, shooting, swimming, wheelchair basketball, and track and field.
The Warrior Games were established in 2010 as a way to enhance the recovery and rehabilitation of wounded warriors and to expose them to adaptive sports. Sponsored by the U.S. Olympic Committee in Colorado Springs, Colo., the inaugural Warrior Games hosted approximately 200 wounded, ill and injured service members.