Warriors are taking over Disney World this week
ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort.

ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex
The public is invited to watch the Warrior Games at Disney World through June 30.

Daniel Eaton found his peace in the water.

The military base pool was quiet. Practicing his strokes cleared his head. The Pensacola native felt calm. Eaton was thankful just to be moving again.

Last year, a car veered off the road, over the bus lane and onto the sidewalk where Eaton was walking his two dogs that morning before his shift started. His job was to help build runways and bases in remote locations.

Eaton doesn’t remember much, other than seeing the blue sky and his dead German Shepherd and Dachshund when he woke up. The hit-and-run driver was gone, never found, never punished. And Eaton’s body was broken. 

The list of Eaton’s ailments was long. A traumatic brain injury, broken ribs, two broken vertebrae in his neck, a collapsed left lung, a lacerated spleen, internal bleeding, his spine now unstable.

“Five of my vertebrae are fused together with bolts and rods, and then there’s like a bone graft inside of it to basically fuse it together,” said Eaton, a 28-year-old U.S. Air Force staff sergeant based in Nevada who has served multiple deployments to Iraq, Korea and other locations since joining the military in 2015.

Eaton’s marathon running days were over, but over time, his body began healing. 

“I’ve dealt with neurologists. I’ve dealt with orthopedic doctors. I’ve dealt with psychologists. I’ve dealt with just various different doctors, and I’m so thankful for all of them,” Eaton said. 

They encouraged him to swim, cycle and walk. Now, 13 months after his serious injuries, he’s stronger and ready to compete in the pool.

Eaton will be one of 230 athletes at the Department of Defense’s Warrior Games at Walt Disney World starting Friday through June 30. The public is invited to attend the free athletic showcase of active-duty military and veterans competing in wheelchair basketball, swimming, track and other sports.

It’s the second time Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports has hosted the Games since 2022. And Disney’s connection to the military runs deep.

“We are humbled to again welcome these heroic service members and veterans, their families and supporters to ESPN Wide World of Sports,” said Walt Disney World Resort President Jeff Vahle in a past statement. “Their sacrifice has allowed us the freedoms we enjoy daily, and we are honored to be able to witness their spirit of determination, boldness and loyalty come alive during the games.”

The athletes are resilient. Some people are double amputees, while others survived car crashes and cancer or other hardships, said Shawn Sprayberry, a spokesman for the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program.

“They’re here despite all that and competing at this level, which, as far as I’m concerned …  this is like the Super Bowl for wounded warriors,” Sprayberry said.

For Eaton, he will swim multiple distances, race track in his wheelchair and cycle. His family from Pensacola and his wife will be cheering him on and will visit the Magic Kingdom with him.

“I’m with a lot of people that can relate to the injuries I have sustained, physically and mentally,” Eaton said. “We’re just out there having a good time and just enjoying life and grateful that we’re still here.”

Before the hit-and-run, Eaton wasn’t a swimmer. Now as he talks about running, swimming and cycling in the Warrior Games and his continuing recovery, he talks about a dream to work toward. Maybe, just maybe, he could do an Iron Man someday.

Gabrielle Russon

Gabrielle Russon is an award-winning journalist based in Orlando. She covered the business of theme parks for the Orlando Sentinel. Her previous newspaper stops include the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Toledo Blade, Kalamazoo Gazette and Elkhart Truth as well as an internship covering the nation’s capital for the Chicago Tribune. For fun, she runs marathons. She gets her training from chasing a toddler around. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter @GabrielleRusson .


8 comments

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    • Elvis Pitts "The Big Voice On The Right" American

      June 21, 2024 at 7:10 pm

      Good evening Dook 4 Brains Leftys,
      Congrats, Y’All just scored a big win today with Disney. Below is a reprint of an A. P. artical that should have all your “Dook Hearts” swelling with “Dook Pride”.
      REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION:
      “BURBANK, CA — In a move intended to show its ongoing commitment to diversity and righting any wrongs of the past, The Walt Disney Company announced it had posthumously fired Walt Disney for being a white male.

      Disney leadership made the move in an effort to show that the company remains ever-vigilant to weed out the oppressive presence of Caucasian men from within its ranks and will go to whatever lengths are necessary to project a more diverse image in the future.”
      Enjoy your win “Dook 4 Brains Leftys” and in light of your great joy and happiness I suggest all Dook 4 Brains Leftys enhance your joy by “Relaxing Your Dook Sphincters” for the entire weekend of joy and happiness that Disney is “Down For The Cause”.
      Dont worry Disney wont cancell 8IDEN until after the Debate.
      Enjoy your big victory Dooks,
      Elvis [FKA EARL] Pitts American

      • Thurston Howell IV

        June 21, 2024 at 7:20 pm

        Thanks Elvis,
        Lets let them have an entire week of joy and happiness prior to the Debate.
        I’ve got no problem with that. My wife told me the poors along with the Dooks need to be thrown a bone from time to time as we are aware that they know the election is not theirs to win.
        Thurston Howell IV

        • Elvis Pitts "The Big Voice On The Right" American

          June 21, 2024 at 7:36 pm

          Great Idea my Sage Friend and Genious Financial Advisor, Thurston,
          Lets give the Dooks an entire week of Joy and Sphincter Relaxation prior to the Debate.
          As for The Poors, we already got them as 98.884% of Our Great Nation’s Poors are by default voting Trump for their own and their Sage Family’s very Economic Survival.
          Thurston please join me in welcoming the poors to our Trump Team of Sage Voters.
          EPA

          • Thurston Howell IV

            June 21, 2024 at 7:50 pm

            You got it Elvis,
            Welcome Welcome to all of The USAs Poors !!!!
            With Elvis handeling the politics, with me, Thurston handeling the Nations Finances, and with our new team members The Current Poors handeling The Trump Vote its a Win – Win!
            And you current Poors got Thurston’s Sage Promise you wont be Poors very long after Trump Steps Up To POTUS.
            Thurston Howell The 4th.
            TH

  • lodokaf

    June 22, 2024 at 4:50 am

    Good article

    • Elvis Pitts "The Big Voice On The Right" American

      June 22, 2024 at 8:29 am

      Thank you, Lodokaf, for your support for me, Elvis Pitts American.
      Have a wonderfull weekend my new Sage Patriot fan of me, Elvis Pitts American.
      Thank you,
      Elvis Pitts American

Comments are closed.


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