WASHINGTON, April 7, 2014 - When President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama welcomed the 2014 Sochi Olympic and Paralympic athletes to the White House last week, a Navy service member stood out among the members of Team USA.
The White House event marked a celebration for the Olympians and Paralympians who brought home 46 medals for the nation, the president said.
"We could not be prouder of Team USA," he said.
"In so many different ways, you all are inspiring folks across the country, not just every four years but every single day," the first lady said. "And nowhere have I seen that more clearly than in the story of someone that I met here at the White House four years ago under far different circumstances."
That was when she met Navy Lt. Cmdr. Dan Cnossen following his return from Afghanistan where he'd led a platoon of Navy SEALs. Cnossen lost both legs to an improvised explosive device, the first lady said, but he never lost his fighting spirit.
"I will always remember Dan, because just four months after that explosion, he finished a half marathon in a wheelchair," she said. "On the one-year anniversary of his injury, he ran a mile on his prosthetics. Over the next few years, Dan stayed on active duty while in the Navy, earning medals in swimming and running events at the Warrior Games, and completing the New York City Marathon," the first lady said.
"Today, four-and-a-half years after his injury, Dan is proud to wear another one of our nation's uniforms, and that is of Team USA," she added. The first lady also recognized Cnossen's sister, also in the audience at the White House event, for the support she gave her brother during his recovery and her contributions to his success.
"In Sochi," the first lady said, "Dan inspired us all again by competing in the 15K biathlon and the 1 kilometer sitting cross-country spring. So Dan has come a long way in the four years that we met, and I know that his story and the stories of all our Olympians and Paralympians are nowhere near finished. So keep it up. This is only the beginning. Many of you were here four years ago, and you told us you'd be back -- and you're back. So I know you're already getting ready for that next four years.
"But in the meantime," she continued, "we look forward to all that you're going to do in this country and around the world to keep inspiring particularly young people to just live a little more like you all live and to show them that spirit of persistence."
The president said the athletes have inspired their fellow Americans.
"From our ski jumpers who fought for equality to the athletes and coaches who have served our country in uniform, who we're so proud of, these athletes all send a message that resonates far beyond the Olympic Village," he said. "And that's always been the power of the Olympics -- in going for the gold and pushing yourselves to be the best, you inspire the rest of us to try to, if not be the best, at least be a little better."
Just like the Olympic creed states, the most important thing in life is not the triumph, but the fight, Obama told the Olympians.
"The courage, the stick-to-itness, the confidence, and the joy in competition that keeps you moving [will] help you throughout life," he said. "It helps our country. It's what America is all about. It's why we are so proud to have you all here today."
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