2017 Department of Defense Warrior Games has Hall of Famers too

WTU Force Structure National Wheelchair Basketball Hall of Famer and 2017 DOD Warrior Games Wheelchair Basketball venue manager Lee Montgomery hold court with coaches and others prior to a wheelchair basketball practice session at the McCormick Place Convention Center during the 2017 DOD Warrior Games. (Photo by Lee Marvin Packnett)

By: Lee Marvin Packnett, Warrior Care and Transition

CHICAGO – From the opening ceremonies featuring two Grammy Awards winners in Kelly Clarkson and Blake Shelton, former television host and comedian Jon Stewart and plenty of military brass of Navy Admirals, Army, Air Force and Marine Corps Generals, one Hall of Famer remained in the background.

Each sporting event at the 2017 DOD Warrior Games is supported by a venue manager reporting to the Sports Director. For wheelchair basketball, the venue manager, Mr. Lee Montgomery may be known as only the man overseeing wheelchair basketball at the games but he is more than just a figurehead.

The Centreville, Mississippi native and current Grand Rapids, Michigan resident is not a novice when it comes to Wheelchair Basketball and other adaptive sports. He won a gold medal for wheelchair basketball in the 1990 Pan American Games and played sitting volleyball in four Paralympic Games (1984, 1988, 1992 and 1996). In 1993, he ranked 10th in the U.S. among wheelchair tennis players. He was inducted into the Grand Rapids Sports Hall of Fame in 2006 and into the National Wheelchair Basketball Hall of Fame in 2015 after a career that spanned over 30 years. Earlier this year, he coached the Mary Free Bed Junior Pacers to the National Wheelchair Basketball Juniors National Championship.

Born in Centreville, Mississippi, he left at early age (12) to live with an aunt in Grand Rapids, Mich. “I really did not want to leave my sisters and brothers at the time not knowing that it was the best thing for me as I was born with limb differences and needed the specialized care provided by Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Center,” said Lee.

Lee comes from a family of athletes to include his late brother James and younger brother Boris who both played quarterback and basketball at the now closed William Winans High School in Centreville along with sisters Beverly, Maria and Rebecca. “Who would have known that I would be as accomplished as they were,” he said with a smile.

Lee has been involved with the Warrior Games since its inception, first as a coach with U.S. Special Operations Command, the Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and with Team Army in 2015. In 2016, he was selected as the venue manager for the Army hosted games at the United States Military Academy, West Point, N.Y. and again this year in Chicago.

When asked, what advice he would give the service men and women currently playing in the Warrior Games, Lee said that he would encourage them to seek out teams in their local communities and continue to play, improve and eventually they could earned a place on a national team or play professionally.

Lee spoke highly of the San Diego Wolfpack Wheelchair Basketball team, the only wheelchair basketball team in the United States that is made up of former warrior games participants and other active duty and veteran service members who have sustained an amputation, spinal cord injury or other orthopedic or neurological disorder. Lee coached several of the players during his stints as a coach for Warrior Games.

“It is beautiful thing to provide advice, coach and mentor the men and women who chose to protect us,” Lee said while preparing for the 2017 DOD Warrior Games Wheelchair Basketball gold medal game between Team Army and Team Navy.

Lee also stated that he hopes that the Department of Defense continues with the games and provide opportunities and a “door opener” for some of the players.

Lee retires later this month after 31 years as certified computer programmer with Meijer, Inc., a retail superstore chain in Grand Rapids.