Skip to comments.A little sunshine in lives of wounded vets
Posted on 10/09/2006 8:48:42 AM PDT by SandRat
JACKSON'S GAP, Ala. Army Pfc. Joshua Stein grew up in the water, swimming, diving and spearfishing at his native island of Saipan in the Pacific Ocean.
Now, however, Stein is learning to water-ski without his legs, which were blown off when a roadside bomb hit the Bradley fighting vehicle he was driving.
With help, Stein straps his scarred body into a cradle fitted on a single, wide ski. Then, he grasps the tow rope with a right arm covered with skin grafts and rises out of the water, grinning and giving a thumbs-up with his mangled left arm, as the boat roars away.
Stein, learning to walk on short prosthetic limbs, said he couldn't even think about his future until he talked with other soldiers who lost limbs.
"I was 6-1, and now I'm Tattoo on 'Fantasy Island,' " he joked.
Similar military and civilian outdoor programs have quietly sprung up nationwide for permanently disabled vets like Stein, using the challenges and sheer fun of recreation to help them get past the pain and move them toward resuming their lives.
Last weekend, 25 disabled veterans were at Lake Martin in rural east Alabama for Operation Adventure, a sports program put on by the Birmingham-based Lakeshore Foundation at Camp ASCCA. The Easter Seals camp draws more than 10,000 disabled children and adults annually. Like Operation Adventure, many of these efforts to help severely injured vets are sponsored by the Wounded Warrior Disabled Sports Project, a partnership between Disabled Sports USA and the Wounded Warrior Project.
The program is in 25 states and growing.
Outdoor sports programs are an important bridge for disabled veterans trying to move on to a new phase of life, says Kirk Bauer, the executive director of Disabled Sports USA.
His organization, funded mainly by private donations, works with amputees from Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington and Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas.
About 21,400 U.S. servicemen and women have been wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq, Pentagon figures show. Hundreds are permanently disabled.
America Cares and Provides -- The Wounded Warriors Smile
Alright, who's got the tissues? My screen just got all blurry, again.