T-bolts assist disabled vets

Courtesy photos


Thunderbolts from Luke Air Force Base assisted with the 2015 National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic for five days in September in San Diego.

Forty-two Airmen attended the clinic to assist disabled veterans from all over the country. The clinic gave veterans an opportunity to challenge themselves through education and recreational activities. Rehabilitation was promoted using summer sporting activities such as surfing, archery, sailing, kayaking, cycling and rowing.

“This experience is amazing,” said Master Sgt. Brian Abel, 372nd Training Squadron field training detachment NCO in charge. “There is nothing better than giving back to these veterans. They have sacrificed so much for us. It is a very rewarding and humbling experience. The clinic is all about showing these veterans that there is still life after disability. That is the main purpose of this clinic.”

Veterans from World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, the Gulf War, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were in attendance. Veterans can suffer from either physical or psychological impairments or both.

One of the goals of the clinic and volunteers from Luke was to bring veterans together to help heal through group activities.

Airmen were allowed by their commanders a permissive temporary duty assignment for the week to attend the clinic.

“I feel great about supporting this event,” said Lt. Col. Jason Hokaj, 56th Operation Support Squadron commander. “We were giving back to our own, so in many ways I felt it was our duty. I am a huge fitness supporter, and I believe in its ability to heal people in ways that are unexpected or counter-intuitive. I also believe that people learn more from teaching and coaching than we ever learn from being taught, so it is a win-win for all involved.”

As Airmen, encouragement is given to pursue volunteer opportunities to strengthen ties with the community and to let the community know the Air Force is there.

“I know that my Airmen benefited from seeing the inspirational acts those veterans displayed on a daily basis,” Hokaj said. “In many cases, it’s simply finding the courage to get out of bed every day. It helps to keep us all grounded and realize what is most important in our lives.”

The only cost paid for by the volunteers was transportation costs. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs paid for the volunteers’ meal cards and the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel served as the host hotel providing lodging.