I had the special honor of greeting the U.S. Men’s Sitting Volleyball team on Friday as they prepared for an international tournament hosted by the Sarajevo Phantoms club. Although meeting athletes of their caliber is always a humbling experience, I was especially pleased to meet these men over Memorial Day weekend because two of their members are Purple Heart-awarded veterans: Ed O’Neill and James Stuck and all of them were proud to be representing America.
Memorial Day provides Americans with an opportunity to remember the sacrifices of our veterans. I’m deeply grateful for the service of our men and women in uniform.
Along with being thankful of the service of our veterans, the chance to meet both the U.S. Men’s team and the local team – the Sarajevo Phantom Club, which also includes distinguished veterans – left me inspired by their athleticism, discipline, and teamwork. Sporting events like this weekend’s volleyball tournament are excellent ways to build friendships between nations. They’re also good at bridging differences. In fact, Mirsad Mirojevic, director of the Sarajevo Phantoms Team, told me that his club regularly competes against sitting volleyball teams from the Republika Srpska.
“These tournaments are ways to unify the country,” Mirojevic said, as he showed me his team’s trophy-packed clubhouse. The Phantoms are now celebrating their 15th year as a club. After this weekend, they have even more reason to celebrate: the team won the top prize at the tournament. I congratulate them for their success! I’m also very proud of the strong showing by the American team.
In addition to meeting both the U.S. and the Sarajevo teams, I had a chance to speak with Perry Baltimore, director of the Marshall Legacy Institute, which is one of the primary sponsors of the Bosnian team. The group has been instrumental in helping the team, and even more importantly, in helping to reduce the threat posed by landmines in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The international tournament held over the weekend was sponsored in part by the International Trust Fund for Demining and Mine Victims Assistance, which was established in part by the U.S.