Robin Lineberger, CEO of Deloitte’s Federal Government Practice, spoke with WashingtonExec about Deloitte’s involvement with the Warrior Games, a paralympic sports competition for service members and veterans. Lineberger discussed the importance of the Warrior Games, why he chose to become a part of such a unique even as well as plans for the competition next year.
WashingtonExec: How did Deloitte become a sponsor of the Warrior Games?
Robin Lineberger: During the formative stages of the Warrior Games presented by Deloitte we had a preexisting relationship with the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC). Deloitte is a major global sponsor of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Teams as well as the USOC Paralympic Military Program. So when the USOC, the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the USO wanted to find a way to further rehabilitation of veterans and service members through sport – which ultimately inspired the creation of the Warrior Games – we were asked to be a part of that effort. We were, in a sense, involved on the ground floor. This is the third successive year that we have had the honor to be the presenting sponsor of the Warrior Games and the third event overall. Deloitte also announced this year that we have extended our sponsorship of the USOC Paralympic Military program through 2020.
Many of the leaders here at Deloitte are veterans and/or have family members who are a part of the Armed Forces. Since Deloitte aims to have a significant and meaningful role in strengthening America’s communities through its strong service-oriented culture, the sponsorship of the Warrior Games is an excellent fit for us.
WashingtonExec: Have you been involved personally for the past three years?
Robin Lineberger: Yes. This year, as you may know, the First Lady, Michelle Obama spoke at the Opening Ceremony as well as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin E. Dempsey, so it was an honor for me to join them on stage to open the 2012 Warrior Games. It is awe inspiring and humbling to see the athletes from all of the services enter the promenade and begin the competition. I thought back to the very first opening ceremony in 2010, where I also gave one of the opening speeches. At that event, Roger Staubach lit the caldron. As a Navy veteran and a sports figure, it was very poignant for Roger to be a part of the inaugural Opening Ceremony. Last year, in 2011, I spoke at the Closing Ceremony where I had the unique opportunity to present the award for the top athlete which they call the Ultimate Champion. The award is given to the individual who does the best overall in five different sport competitions during the Warrior Games. Captain Jonathan Disbro of the U.S. Marine Corps won that award and it was an honor to present it to him before a crowd of several thousand.
WashingtonExec: What has changed since the first Warrior Games?
Robin Lineberger: Each year at the Warrior Games is unique. In 2012, we had international participation for the first time. The UK sent 18 athletes from her Majesty’s Armed Forces. This was done in large part to broaden participation in the Warrior Games, but it was also done to connect to the activities of the Olympic and Paralympic Games – which Deloitte also sponsors – and will be held in the UK this year.
WashingtonExec: What made Deloitte decide that this is how it wanted to give back – through participation in the Warrior Games – rather than a more traditional fundraising event?
Robin Lineberger: That’s a really good question. Deloitte’s sponsorship of the Warrior Games provides us the privilege and the opportunity to give back the community of veterans who are our clients and our colleagues. Our role in the Warrior Games is unique because as a firm we choose to go beyond fund raising and fund giving if you will, to work with the USOC to help ensure that the games happen and that they are successful, robust and are maintained year after year. Not only does our sponsorship of the Games support the participating veterans, but it also provides us with the opportunity to put our experience and passion to work for the benefit of the USOC.
Secondly, we decided to participate in this way because it gives us an opportunity to actually interact through volunteer activities. Within Deloitte, we had put out a call for volunteers. We had so many responses that we engaged in a competition to select those who would get the opportunity to work with the talented athletes competing in the Warrior Games.
Thirdly we signed on because this event has life- changing impact. This isn’t about the one competition during those five or six days in Colorado Springs. The Warrior Games are the result of proactive decision making, and a demonstration of the personal discipline it takes to get up and to engage in a long term training activity. The competition has a long-lasting impact on the competitors and on their families. As the athletes move through the rehabilitation process there is improvement on a physical basis as well as on an emotional and mental basis. It’s the long standing impact of getting involved in rehabilitative sport that brings major benefits and that’s the reason why we support the Warrior Games and other activities that further the rehabilitation of veterans through sports and athletics.
Finally, Deloitte’s sponsorship of the Warrior Games sits squarely in the middle of our focus about giving back to those brave young men and women and active duty personnel who protect our country every day. And because many of our employees are veterans themselves, these games are critically important and close to members of our organization. I’m proud to say more than 35 Deloitte employees volunteered for this year’s games. Some traveled from across the country to attend and show support for the participating service members and veterans, so it all aligns very well.
WashingtonExec: Is there a particular reason why the games are held in Colorado?
Robin Lineberger: Colorado Springs is the headquarters for the U.S. Olympic Committee, home of the largest Olympic Training Center and a great military community The facilities exist, they can run the competitions there, and the dormitories are there. The physical infrastructure is a good fit. The Olympic Training Center location improves the logistics of the competition overall and it’s a great environment. If you get a chance to see some of the pictures from the Warrior Games, it is really breathtaking to see these 220 young men and women come up the promenade with all of the international flags flying and hear the inspirational service songs. It really raises the feeling of accomplishment for the athletes and all of us who participate.
WashingtonExec: The Warrior Games were held this year at the Air Force Academy, can you tell us why?
Robin Lineberger: This year the Air Force Academy graciously agreed to host the games this year because the Olympic Training Center facilities were being used by Olympic and Paralympic athletes preparing for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in London this summer. The Air Force Academy was a great location for the Warrior Games because it has larger venues that allowed us to open up to more spectators.
“The underlying message or theme here is that these Paralympic-style competitive events accentuate the ability of these men and women rather than their disabilities. It focuses on accomplishment and achievement and moving past what might be perceived as limitations. It’s important to highlight that these games provide participating service members and veterans an opportunity to heal and recover together.”
WashingtonExec: What do you believe is the underlying message of the Warrior Games?
Robin Lineberger: I think the underlying message or theme here is that these Paralympic-style competitive events accentuate the ability of these men and women rather than their disabilities. It focuses on accomplishment and achievement and moving past what might be perceived as limitations. It’s important to highlight that these games provide participating service members and veterans an opportunity to heal and recover together. There is no substitute for that. After long years at war, disabled veterans are returning home to new challenges. Some have physical injuries suffered during combat while others battle depression and other conditions like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). We’ve found that group dynamics and camaraderie of team sports and athletic events offer veterans the necessary emotional support for their transition back to civilian life. And these games have become a springboard for many service members and veterans to continue participating in sports programs in their communities after the event. Deloitte also supports other events like the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic and the Paralyzed Veterans Golf Open.
WashingtonExec: Those are all of my questions for you. Do you have anything else you would like to add?
Robin Lineberger: This year, more than 220 wounded ill and injured service members and veterans from the all branches of the Armed Forces competed for five days. The Warrior Games is part of Deloitte’s on-going effort to give back to the community.
It’s very important to remember some of our troops have made the ultimate sacrifice in defending our nation. Others, who have returned home, still have challenges to overcome as they transition back to civilian life. It is now our duty and our honor to support them.