SAN DIEGO, Calif. (Ivanhoe Newswire) - To date, more than 6,400 U.S. men and women serving in the military have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. At least 48,000 have returned home wounded. For many who've lost limbs, their sight or their sanity everyday life is their greatest challenge. Now, their mission is being re-defined, and thousands have new hope and a new life.
Surfing, kayaking, climbing and more; all of this is helping our wounded warriors adjust to post-war life.
Steven Bradford was a sniper in Baghdad. During recon missions, he had close calls with 15 IEDs.
"I had major depressive disorder," Steven Bradford, a Paralympian tells Ivanhoe.
Now, he's learning how to throw shot-put from the U.S. Paralympic world record holder Scott Winkler, paralyzed while serving in Iraq, who is here with other Paralympians teaching wounded warriors about living life without limbs and without pity.
"I didn't know what to expect in life. I felt like I wasn't a soldier anymore. I didn't know. I was angry," said Paralympian Scott Winkler.
But his new passion is helping him through.
"If you believe, you can achieve," continued Winkler.
Dan Thornhill lost his legs in a car bombing in Afghanistan.
"This is the first time I've been in one of these racing chairs," Paralympian Dan Thornhill said.
Paralympian Cece Mazyck is teaching him how to race. She lost the use of her legs in a parachuting accident.
"When I jumped out, I got entangled with another jumper," explains Cece Mazyck.
Army vet and amputee John Register runs the veterans' programs for the U.S. Olympic committee. He said learning a new sport saved him, and he believes it will save others.
"We have to get them to change their perspective about their situation," John Register tells Ivanhoe.
It's inspiration through rehabilitation.
"Being physical is a huge part of the healing process," explained Bradford.
"There is life after injury," concluded Winkler.
The VA sponsors six national rehabilitation events each year, and you don't have to be a Paralympian to take part in the adaptive sports programs. Veterans can go to our web site to learn more about adaptive and community sports programs offered by the VA.
HOW SPORTS HELP: For injured veterans and soldiers, getting back to their life before the injury is not always an easy road but sports can play an important role in this recovery. The use of sports in wounded soldiers' rehabilitation has so far proved to have many benefits, especially for those soldiers who now need to adjust to life in a wheelchair. Not only can sports help these soldiers' rehabilitation but also recreational activities such as golf, or whatever activities the individual has an interest in. Benefits of sports and recreation activities for injured soldiers include improved physical and mental health, and most importantly the reminder that their injury does not hold them back from leading a fulfilling life. (Source: www.pva.org)
PROGRAMS FOR VETERANS: There are various programs involving sports set-up in the United States that disabled veterans can participate in. Here are a few programs that take place every year:
The National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic – This clinic teaches veterans with significant physical and psychological issues summer sporting activities in order to help with their rehabilitation. These activities can include anything from track and field to surfing. There is also a Winter Sports Clinic which provides the same services for winter sports.
The National Veterans Wheelchair Games – These games are the largest wheelchair sports competition in the world and it has 17 different sports for veterans in wheelchairs to participate in including hand cycling, basketball, and rugby.
The National Veterans Golden Age Games – The Golden Age Games is a multi-event sports competition for veterans 55 years and older with various abilities and disabilities in the hopes that participating in the program will improve their quality of life.
THE PARALYMPICS: Wounded veterans can also compete in the U.S. Paralympic Games, which runs alongside the Olympics. The Paralympics are the second largest elite sports competition for people with physical or visual disabilities worldwide and although participants in the Paralympic Games come from all over, many are injured veterans. For some disabled veterans, the Paralympics are a goal that they can strive for and another way to represent their country in an international arena. The VA Paralympic Program was also created to further help injured veterans' rehabilitation. (Source: www.va.gov)
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