Wheelchair Games Provide Therapy, Fun for Disabled Vets
(July 30, 2008)
OMAHA, Neb., July 29, 2008 – About 500
disabled veterans, including recently wounded warriors from
Iraq and Afghanistan, are entering their final day of
competition here today at the 28th National Veterans
The event is the world's largest annual wheelchair sports
competition. It brings together veterans with spinal cord
injuries, amputations or other mobility or neurological
conditions to compete in 17 different events.
Veterans Affairs Secretary James B. Peake, who opened the
competition July 25, called it a big part of the veterans'
rehabilitation and said the games provide “a therapeutic
extension” of the top-notch health care veterans receive in
VA medical centers.
William Kafka, a disabled veteran from El Paso,
Texas, prepares to take a shot during nine-ball
pool at the 28th National Veterans Wheelchair
Games in Omaha, Neb.
Terrall Ramirez, a disabled
veteran from Moss Point, Miss., competes in a
|"Rehabilitation is crucial to living a full life following
an injury,” Peake said. “I applaud all of the veterans
participating as they strive to achieve their goals during
this week of athletic competition.”
Competition was running fierce during the third day of
competition yesterday, with participants fanned out to
venues across Omaha to compete in swimming, basketball,
track, weight lifting, softball, air guns, quad rugby,
nine-ball billiards, field events, bowling, table tennis,
archery, hand cycling, wheelchair slalom, trapshooting, a
motorized wheelchair relay, and power soccer.
In addition, athletes with prostheses had the option of
competing in several stand-up events.
Airmen 1st Class Silvia Lisseth and Crystal Holk, both
active-duty airmen at nearby Offutt Air Force Base served as
volunteers at a platform in the Qwest Center, where winners
received their medals.
Lisseth said she was blown away by the veterans' enthusiasm
for the games.
to see how much they put into this and how much heart
theyhave in it,” she said. Holk said she felt
honored to announce each winner's awards before the medal
presentations. “It's really inspiring to see how motivated
they are to come and win these, and then to see the big
smiles when they wear those medals,” she said.
But Randy L. Pleva Sr., president of the Paralyzed Veterans
of America, which cosponsors the games, said the games are
about much more than medals. “They're a mix of camaraderie,
competition and courage,” he said. “And they're
rehabilitation at its best for our paralyzed veterans.”
Tyler Wilson, a disabled veteran from Thornton, Colo., takes aim during the archery competition
Tiffany Smith, a recreational therapist from Walter Reed
Army Medical Center in Washington, brought five patients to
the games, three of them for the first time. “It's a real
morale boost for them to come here and get challenges
personally outside the hospital setting,” she said.
The games “bring back their competitive streak and show them
that they are able to return to what they used to do in a
competitive way,” Smith said. Meanwhile, they provide a
forum for building leadership, self-esteem and a sense of
teamwork, she said.
Participating in the games “opens a whole doorway for them,”
said Steve Zaracki, a sports coordinator who works for the
Paralyzed Veterans of America. “You see their spirit open
up. It's inspiring.”
David Randall, a disabled veteran from Mansfield, Ohio, contemplates his next move during a basketball
Zaracki said it's particularly
gratifying to work with recent combat veterans who still are
adjusting to their wounds.
“It makes you really want to provide for them because of all
that they have done for us,” he said. “You want to motivate
them. You want to push them. You want to inspire them to
say, ‘Look, I can do this. There is life in a wheelchair.'”
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
Forces Press Service / DoD ...
of the Department of Veterans Affairs
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