BY ROS DUMLAO // COMMUNICATIONS INTERN
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – If there’s one thing Missy Franklin is certain about, it’s that her 18th birthday will be hard to top.
Sure, Franklin dined with Prince Harry – who visited Colorado for the 2013 Warrior Games. But that experience was just icing on the cake.
What could be bigger than dining with his royal highness?
For Franklin, who turned 18 on May 10, it was helping light the cauldron at the Opening Ceremony of the 2013 Warrior Games, an Olympic-style competition for more than 250 wounded servicemen and women.
“She really wanted to support the Warrior Games, and (dinner Friday) night was a huge bonus,” Franklin's mom D.A. said.
“When the (U.S. Olympic Committee) got in touch with me to see if she’d be involved in the Warrior Games, I said right away, it’s her birthday weekend, and she has plans. ... I said this isn’t our decision, this is Missy’s decision. It’s her 18th birthday. But she didn’t hesitate for one second. She really wanted to get involved. She said, that is so special.”
An event, so special, that the younger Franklin canceled her birthday trip to the mountains in Breckinridge, Colo. Franklin just graduated high school and had already rented a house for 10 of her high school friends and her parents to enjoy for the weekend.
Then Franklin got a call asking if she’d like to accompany U.S. Navy Lt. and two-time Paralympic swimming gold medalist Brad Snyder as a torch bearer during the opening ceremonies of the Warrior Games at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Snyder lost his eyesight following the explosion of an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan.
“We knew that this was not an opportunity I could turn down,” four-time Olympic gold medalist Franklin said.
And it was a decision she didn’t regret.
In front of nearly 1,200 people, Franklin, Snyder and Prince Harry, lit the cauldron to signify the start of the Games.
Snyder made a name for himself at last year’s Warrior Games by winning seven gold medals (four in swimming and three for track and field).
He went on to win two golds and a silver at the 2012 London Paralympic Games.
This was all within a one year since he became blind on Sept. 2011.
“It was so beautiful — I can’t believe that I’m here; I’m so excited.” Franklin said following the Opening Ceremony. “Just even to be a part of it, let alone lighting the torch, means so much to me because these athletes and these heroes do so much, and they inspire us every single day.
“To have something like this, to come out here and show what they’ve got and just compete and have fun after everything that they’ve been through, it’s just incredible and an honor to be a part of.”
Franklin’s parents, D.A. and Dick, joined her at the Opening Ceremony and watched as each athlete from the five branches of the U.S. Armed Forces – Air Force, Army, Marines Corps , Navy/Coast Guard and Special Operations – and British Armed Forces marched together.
“To able to be involved with these incredible military heroes, it’s just — these are the types of experiences that are going to change and shape her life,” D.A. said.
“Absolutely,” her father added. “She has obviously had a wonderful life, but at the same time, she’s getting exposed to other things in life, and especially getting to 18, getting to college, she’s starting to see all of these things around her.”