FORT SILL, OK (KSWO) -Fort Sill hosted hundreds of athletes as they competed in the Southwest Oklahoma Special Olympics.
More than 400 adults and children converged on Fort Sill's Prichard Field for the competition. To add a special touch to the event, Fort Sill paired each solider with an athlete as a battle buddy. From there, the battle buddy made sure the athlete made it to their event on time and helped to cheer them on throughout their events.
It was all smiles as parents and teachers watched loved ones sprint across the finish lines to victory.
The passing of the torch was the official kick off for Friday's Southwest Oklahoma Special Olympics games. Hundreds of athletes took part in events like the 50-meter relay, the long jump and a softball throw. For first time battle buddy Josh Bessette, his job holds a special place in his heart.
"I enjoy being out here. I have a brother back home with autism, so the cause kind of hit home. I'm used to being around kids with special needs and stuff like that, no big deal for me," Bessette said.
While all of the Special Olympians were born with a few developmental challenges, battle buddy Bessette said it wasn't about winning, but moving forward.
"Never give up just because you don't always start on the same playing field as other people in life. That doesn't mean you can't surpass them or be just as good as them," he said.
For 8-year-old Kayden Honeycutt, it was a different story. He won first place in the 50-meter dash; something he says is new to him.
"Because I never been in a race before," he said.
Lieutenant Colonel Chuck Matallana says athletes love having the battle buddies around, but the battle buddies also gain something from today's event.
"Every year when these soldiers get ready to graduate, it's a memorable part of their training. They always look back fondly on their time spent with the Special Olympics. It gives them something to look forward to when they get to their next duty station, some activities they can get involved with in their local community, wherever that may be," Lt. Col. Matallana said.
The winners from the 48th annual Southwest Oklahoma Special Olympics will go on to compete at state in May.
In addition to the Special Olympics, Fort Sill hosted a health and safety fair. It was put on by the Fort Sill Safety Office as an official kick-off to summer safety. It also gave the athletes a chance to meet local emergency officials.