Sports

March 27, 2012

VA secretary opens Veterans Winter Sports Clinic

VA photograph by April Eilers
Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki chats with participants in the 26th annual National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic in Snowmass Village, Colo., during opening ceremonies March 25, 2012.

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki opened the 26th annual National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic in Snowmass Village, Colo., March 25, challenging more than 400 participants to draw on the qualities they demonstrated in uniform to live life to its fullest.

“The physical effort, sheer determination, courage and self-confidence that characterized your service in uniform came from deep within you,” the former Army chief of staff told the group, which includes nine active-duty service members and 94 veterans of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Well, those are the very attributes that will carry you through this week here in Colorado,” he said. “And more importantly, it is what will get you back into living life.”

The winter sports clinic, jointly sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Disabled American Veterans, uses recreation as a rehabilitative tool for veterans with disabilities ranging from spinal cord injuries and orthopedic amputations to visual impairment and neurological conditions.

As the veterans learn adaptive Alpine and Nordic skiing and get introduced to rock climbing, scuba diving, trapshooting, wheelchair fencing, sled hockey, snowmobiling, and sled hockey during a six-day program, many discover a whole new world of opportunity.

“Here on the mountain, you are going to do things you never thought possible,” Shinseki told the participants. “This week is about much more than learning to use adaptive skis or snowboards or learning to play sled hockey. It is not about conquering this mountain. It is about conquering ourselves,” he said, quoting Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to scale Mount Everest.

Shinseki, a disabled veteran who lost part of his right foot in Vietnam, praised the strides the veterans have made in their recuperation and urged them to continue striving to live life to its fullest.

VA photograph by Larry Gilstad

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki opens the 26th annual National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic in Snowmass Village, Colo., encouraging participants to apply the lessons they learn to continue their rehabilitation, March 25, 2012.

 

“You may have been injured, but life isn’t over. There is still a lot of living to do for all of us,” he said. “It will be different, no doubt. And you are going to have to work hard to improve functionality. But that is the challenge and the triumph, every day: to keep on living while you are living.”

Donald Samuels, national commander for the Disabled American Veterans and a first-timer at the clinic, recognized the challenge participants will face as they face “a lot of unknowns” in a new setting.

“You have all faced down challenges in your service to our country, and I am urging you to rekindle your fighting spirit and do the same with the hurdles you may face here this week,” he said.

As they do so, Samuels reminded them, they’ll have their fellow veterans encouraging them and giving them the boost they may need to succeed.

“Let this week be about you and your own personal goals and ambitions,” he said. “Make it part of your healing process to revitalize your fighting spirit, your strength and your own independence. This time and this place is all about the incredible things you can accomplish.”

This year’s clinic includes 135 other first-time participants.

Among them is former Marine Corps Sgt. Arthur Lee, who suffered a severe spinal cord injury in Afghanistan in 2003 after the vehicle in front of his hit an improvised explosive device so powerful that it flipped Lee’s 5-ton truck over.

After two years of prodding by his caregivers at the VA hospital in Augusta, Ga., Lee relented, and already is fired up about the reception he and the other veterans here have received here.

“It’s enormous,” he said, sitting in Snowmass Village enjoying the opening-day “Taste of Snowmass” feast hosted by local restaurants to welcome the veterans. “I can tell this is going to be a good experience.”

Shinseki paid tribute during the opening ceremonies to the corporate sponsors, donors and some 1,000 volunteers who make the clinic a success.

Nobody had to twist Nick Infanti’s arm to get him to his first winter sports clinic.

A former Marine who suffered a traumatic brain injury two years ago during an IED attack in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, he was looking forward to putting his snowboarding skills to the test on Snowmass Mountain.

“I came here for the experience. They say this is pretty exciting,” he said, and he rattled off the list of other activities he plans to try: snowmobiling, scuba diving and marksmanship, among them.

VA photograph by April Eilers

Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki opens the 26th annual National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic in Snowmass Village, Colo., March 25, 2012, challenging more than 400 participants to draw on the qualities they demonstrated in uniform to live life to its fullest.

 

Former Navy PO3 Joseph Woods, another first-timer, shared Infanti’s excitement about an action-packed week. Woods served as an operations specialist from 2001 to 2005, but left the Navy with multiple sclerosis and balance issues that force him to use a walker or wheelchair to maneuver.

But over the next week, Woods said, his physical challenges will be the last thing on his mind as he skis, snowmobiles, tries out kayaking and visits the hot springs.

“This breathes life into you to keep you going and keep you motivated,” he said. “Just because you have a disability doesn’t mean life is over … and if there’s one thing you can say about me, it’s that I do not give up.”




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Headlines July 6, 2015

News Long wait to come to America for Iraqis, Afghans who served U.S. troops Long wait times and a shortage of available visas for a huge backlog of applications remain major issues for the U.S. government’s Special Immigrant Visa program intended to ease entry to the United States for Iraqis and Afghans who served as...
 
 

News Briefs July 6, 2015

Russian MiG fighter crashes in southern Russia, pilot lives The Russian Defense Ministry says a Russian air force fighter jet has crashed in the south but its pilot ejected safely. The MiG-29 fighter jet went down July 3 near the village of Kushchevskaya in the Krasnodar region, 620 miles south of Moscow. The ministry said...
 
 
Army photograph by Doug LaFon

Army researcher’s interest in robotics leads to innovative device

Army photograph by Doug LaFon Dan Baechle, left, from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory Multifunctional Materials research team, has created a laboratory prototype of a device he designed to sense and damp out arm tremors for A...
 

 
Air Force photograph by TSgt. Joseph Swafford

Pave Hawk maintainers keep rescue birds flying

Air Force photograph by TSgt. Joseph Swafford Airman Joshua Herron, a 41st Expeditionary Helicopter Maintenance Unit HH-60 Pave Hawk crew chief, completes a 50-hour inspection on a Pave Hawk at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Jun...
 
 
Air Force photograph by SrA. Benjamin Raughton

B-52s demonstrate strategic reach

Air Force photograph by SrA. Benjamin Raughton A B-52H Stratofortress is marshalled to a stop at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., after a 44-hour sortie July 2, 2015. Aircrew members and two B-52s from Barksdale AFB’s 96th ...
 
 

Soldier missing from Korean War accounted for

The Department of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced July 1 that the remains of a serviceman, missing from the Korean War, have been identified and will be returned to his family for burial with full military honors. Army Sgt. Joseph M. Snock Jr. of Apollo, Pennsylvania, was buried July 6, in Arlington National Cemetery. In...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>