Testimonials

Please select a name below to read the emotional testimonials of Veterans Adaptive Sports volunteers and participants as well as reporters covering our organization.

 

Mark Schwed, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

“The remarkable feats come at a rapid-fire pace. A man who lost three limbs in the Iraq war climbs a rock wall. A soldier with traumatic brain injury races down a mountain on skis. A paraplegic snowboards for the first time. Some 350 disabled veterans, who served in World War II to Iraq, converged on Snowmass, Colorado to do things they once thought impossible. The 21st National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic – nicknamed ‘miracle on the mountain’ is the largest annual rehabilitation event of its kind in the world. The mission: to have fun, and show everyone, especially the newly discharged vets from Iraq and Afghanistan, that life does not end with disability.’

‘Anyone who goes and sees these veterans will be humbled like never before,’ says their coach, Douglas Tuttle, supervisor of rehabilitation medicine at the West Palm Beach FL VA Medical Center. ‘They make me very proud. They put the capital ‘A’ in America.”

Jesus Pintos, United States Marine Corp
“This year we had 125 multiple amputees come, some directly out of Walter Reed and Bethesda hospitals. They look a little frightened. A little out of place. Some want to give up. We tell them, no. If you challenge them on this mountain, you can challenge any miracle in life ….. These new kids, they really need us.” 
Frank Miller, United States Army medic
“They (new disabled veterans attending) have the right attitude. The disability isn’t going to slow them down. They’re willing and able to try it all. And they do. To see a lot of vets with even worse disabilities overcome any fear they might have and the challenges, it’s just a real inspiring week.” 
Carlos Rodriguez, Marine, Vietnam War veteran
“They call it the miracle on the mountain for a reason. Each veteran realizes that due to whatever disability we have, that nothing is impossible. You feel alive again.” 
James Nappier, United States Marine and Navy Seabee
“I had PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). I did not like crowds. I was very depressed. But they did’nt give up on me. Last year, my wife packed my bags. She told me I was gonna go …. Now I look forward to it.” 
Ron Hayes, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Luke Murphy, Staff Sgt. 101st Airborne, Palm City, FL, was patroling Baghdad with the 101st Airborne Division when a roadside bomb exploded beneath his Humvee. A year after being released from the hospital, minus his left foot and his right leg below the knee, he went skiing at the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic along with 16 other veterans served by the West Palm Beach VA Medical Center. “I was amazed’, Murphy said. There were a lot of guys there that had were really hurt. Blind, triple amputees, quadriplegics. But everybody was smiling. It seems like everybody looks forward to that one week every year.”

David Bradbury, retired Marine, Riveria Beach, FL sustained a spinal cord injury. He returned for his sixth clinic. ‘It encourages me to stay fit so I’m able to compete on a personal level,’ said Bradbury. So I train … year round, but it also allows me to network with new and old vets.”

Ann Larson, Snowmass Sun Special Correspondent
For every disabled veteran at the annual Winter Sports Clinic, there is a story, according to Wayne Ross, a former Second Lieutenant in the Air Force. Whether through combat – several veterans from Iraq war were in attendance – accidents or illnesses, something drastic has happened during or after their military service that has changed the course of their lives. They may be paralyzed, quadriplegic, amputees or neurologically or visually impaired. In a culture which values physical perfection, a persdon with a disability often becomes invisible and in the process, their stories are lost. One of the positive aspects of coming to the Winter Sports Clinic is the chance to talk to their peers and share their stories.” 
Wayne Ross, C-6 quadriplegic
He attended his first Winter Clinic six months after his accident. Life in a wheelchair has not slowed him down. He has learned to swim, ski, scuba dive and drive his hand-controlled van. Through determination, he has competed at the National Disabled Swimming Championships six times. 
Derec Chumley
“I spent my first year holed up in my house during a dark, gloomy transition period,” he said. After being nagged by his VA recreation therapist, he finally decided to come to a Winter Sports Clinic. “It was eye-opening, a life-changing event.’ Like so many disabled veterans who came to the sports clinic, Chumley found inspiration through his fellow participants.’ He also got a new lease on life. Having overcome the fears associated with being in a wheelchair, he decided to go to law school.”
Doug Tuttle, past supervisor of physical medicine at West Palm Beach VA Center
‘ I see patients get more rehab here (Winter Sports Clinic) in one week than they regularly get in 8-10 weeks at the hospital. Here they focus on ability rather disability. The goal of rehab is to enable the patient to become as independent as possible.” 
Jean Van Trump
“This is the one week (Winter Sports Clinic) of the year that I feel totally free from my disability. And the day I leave here is the day I look forward to coming next year.”
Nancy Peters
“They never thought I would be able to do anything again. It taught me that there were no boundaries. I never would have believed it. It’s amazing how people learn to adapt and compensate.”
Brandon Olson, 101st Army Airborne Division
” It’s been unbelievable. The Snowboarding is pretty sweet. It’s been awesome. I think I’m actually doing more now than I did before. I can’t stop smiling.” 
Douglas Kalajian, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Excerpts about participating Vets at VA Medical Center’s ski trip in Crested Butte, Colorado:
Johnny Byrd. “I had friends, neighbors, all sorts of people tell me I’m crazy, says Johnny Byrd. They thought because I can’t see, I can’t ski. But they were wrong. If you put your heart into it, you can conquer anything. It’s a brotherhood”, says Byrd. “There is nothing as gratifying as having someone in a wheelchair come up to someone who can’t see and say, ‘Can I help you?”
Jeff Grace, an Army veteran, made his first trip to the winter clinic this year, but he wasn’t a beginner. He’s made several ski excursions as part of his rehabilitation after being shot in the head by a robber in 1991. The shooting rendered him instantly and completely blind.”
Francis Wildner, at 81 was the oldest member of the team and third-oldest nationally. ‘I love winter sports’, says Wildner, who first skied in 1942 but did not expect to continue after being diagnosed with a progressive retinal condition in 1976. Wildner made his first trip to the ski clinic last year, along with his guide dog, Vader. “And I’m very enthusiastic about next year’, he says. “I live for this.”

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