GOAL: Service Continues for Veterans, Paralympic Soccer Players



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World Cup competition is underway this week and soccer fans across the globe are cheering their country’s team.

Rene Renteria and Gavin Sibayan will be rooting for Team USA and both men know what it’s like to represent their country in uniform on the world stage.

As a U.S. Marine, Renteria deployed to Afghanistan; and Sibayan, a U.S. Army military police officer, served in Iraq. And despite injuries that halted their military careers, Renteria and Sibayan continue to represent the United States in front of international audiences.

Today, the two are members of the US Paralympics National Soccer Team. Renteria is a forward and was the team’s leading goal scorer in 2013. Sibayan is a midfielder and defender, and e

arned a bronze medal in swimming with the Army’s team at the 2011 Warrior Games.

“It’s awesome to go from defending your country, to competing for your country,” Sibayan said.

Former US Army MP, Gavin Sibayan moves the ball up field.

The Colorado native made the national team in 2012 and recently returned from Barcelona, Spain, where the team placed second at the 9th International 7-a-Side Football Tournament. Paralympic soccer is played seven-a-side on a smaller field and with smaller goals than non-disabled soccer. Each team plays with seven players using the International Federation of Associated Football (FIFA) rules.

Renteria was named US Soccer’s 2013 Disabled Athlete of the Year and credits hard work for his success. He encourages other Veterans and athletes to set goals for themselves and keep working to get better.

“No matter what, keep fighting. Nothing you do that’s worth fighting for is easy,” he said.

Veterans interested in learning more about Paralympic Soccer, including eligibility information, visit: http://www.ussoccer.com/paralympic-soccer.

Former U.S. Marine Rene Renteria plays for the U.S. Paralympic Soccer Team.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and US Paralympics partner to provide physically disabled Veterans with increased opportunities of activity and wellness, including high performance sports programs.

VA also provides a stipend to athletes who meet established eligibility requirements, including training commitment and qualifying competition standards set forth by US Paralympics.

VA’s Office of National Veterans Sports Programs and Special Events promotes the rehabilitation of body and spirit for Veterans by conducting adaptive sports clinics and competitions around the nation. Learn more about VA’s adaptive sports programs at http://www.va.gov/adaptivesports/.

Author

Mike Molina

Mike Molina is a public affairs specialist with VA’s Office of National Veterans Sports Programs and Special Events. He has been a federal public affairs practitioner for nearly 20 years, including serving as public affairs officer at the Jesse Brown VA in Chicago and the Montana VA Health Care System in Helena, Montana. Mike is a Marine Corps Veteran and was an amateur boxer on the All-Marine Boxing Team while stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.