Airman’s Volunteerism earns Service Medal and Olympic Gold!

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Vincent De Groot
  • 185 ARW Iowa ANG
Master Sgt. Bill Wiseman was recently awarded the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal for his involvement in Special Olympics. As a traditional guardsman with the Iowa Air Guard's 185th Air Refueling Wing, in Sioux City, Wiseman also has a full time civilian job and is the father of a special needs child. He has been volunteering with Special Olympics for nearly ten years. As a member of the Iowa National Guard, Wiseman works as a Photojournalist in Public Affairs.

Wiseman became involved with Special Olympics in 2005 when his youngest son, Christopher, who has Downs Syndrome, turned eight years old and was old enough to participate. Like many rural communities, the small South Dakota town where Wiseman lives offered only track and field events for Special Olympics. Wiseman had gotten to know the track coach and offered to help. Wiseman started out primarily helping out wherever needed, and by donating his services as a photographer for the Special Olympics track and field events.

Through a friend, Wiseman found out about South Sioux City Special Olympics (SSCSO), which offers year-round participation in a variety of sports. When Wiseman first became involved with the South Sioux organization they were in the midst of the Floor Hockey season and his son Christopher quickly took to the sport. In fact, it became a family affair; this was when Wiseman found out that his oldest son, Billy could also participate as a unified partner. Special Olympics Unified Sports brings people with and without intellectual disabilities together on the same team to compete. The first year Wiseman's involvement was primarily as team photographer for games.

After the floor hockey season was over, basketball season began. Then came track season, baseball and bowling. Because there are many teams in each sport, some coaches were coaching two or three teams per sport, so Wiseman volunteered to take over the coaching responsibilities for the Hockey team. "I love hockey so I volunteered to help coach a team. The first year I was given a team of the younger kids and had a lot of fun with it. After that I was hooked on coaching all of the sports as either the head coach or as an assistant", said Wiseman. Wiseman added that he has been "all-in" ever since.

The pinnacle of Wiseman's decade long involvement in Special Olympics came recently when his team was chosen to represent the United States in Unified Floor Hockey at the Special Olympics World Games in South Korea in January, 2013. In Unified Floor Hockey, Special Olympic athletes play alongside partner athletes so Wiseman's son Billy was also able to participate. Wiseman was one of the four coaches selected to assemble the team and prepare them for international competition. As they trained, they would also need to raise money for things like equipment and passports as well as other expenses.

In late January, 2013, Wiseman took his team to Seoul, South Korea as part of the U.S. delegation. While in Seoul they put on demonstrations of floor hockey at the Korean International School and at a U.S. military base. They toured Seoul for a few days, before moving on to Pyeongchang where the games took place. The first couple of days they played short preliminary games for bracketing. Then the completion got underway. After two days of play they were 4-0. On the third day they would play two important seeding games; if they could win both games, they would play for the Gold.

Day three started out ominously, according to Wiseman, when he took a stick to the eye in an accident during warm ups before the first game of the day. With a patch on one eye, Wiseman watched his team defeat the team from Greece, while no longer holding a grudge towards his assailant who scored 5 goals in that game. Next up was Sweden, and Wiseman's team dismantled them with a 9-3 victory, sealing a spot in the gold medal game for Team USA.

At the Gold medal game Wiseman's Team USA once again faced Sweden, a team they had played twice before and beaten both times. Their goal was in sight, but they would have to work for it. The game went into four over-times, before they finally managed to score the winning goal. "That moment was awesome as I got to watch those kids celebrate and to see the elation on their faces. I am lucky because I get to see that look every time one of our athletes' scores, steals the puck or blocks a shot. Whether it is at the World Games or the State Games or even in practice, they have the same amount of emotion!" said Wiseman.

According to Wiseman his involvement in Special Olympics was never about receiving recognition. For him, it is about watching the athletes play; he says he is the one who is blessed to be a part of their lives.

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