Here at Wasatch Adaptive Sports, we respect and value the service our veterans have given to this country. We partner with the VA Salt Lake City Health Care System to provide opportunities for recreation to our veterans. Our goal is to get veterans out of the home and participating in activities that promote camaraderie, self-esteem, and a connection to the outdoors. WAS took a day to visit residents of the William E. Christoffersen Salt Lake Veterans Home and listened as they shared their stories about serving our country as well as their experience recreating with WAS. We hope their stories leave you with a love for our country, deep appreciation of our service members, and motivation to get outside!
“I served three years in the Army as a medic. I grew up in a family that valued patriotism where if you are asked to serve, you serve. My great-grandfather, father, and two older brothers all served our country in different ways. During my service, my time was spent at a hospital overseas and I remember being very touched by the locals coming to us for medical care. We loved helping our fellow soldiers, but it was an honor to medically serve those native to the area. Sometimes it felt as if I couldn’t offer much help, but we tried to show empathy, played games with the patients, and would even help write letters to family and friends.
When the VA first asked me if I wanted to participate with WAS, I did not want to go skiing. Anxiety and fear and many other emotions were truly an obstacle. Keelan, a therapist at the VA, helped me change my mind. She said she would go with me and walk me through the process. My experiences with WAS have given me confidence, no fear to try new things, and has helped me become more independent. Comparing my first time with WAS to now, I would say that I am now comfortable to go out and do these things. My goal is to stand-up ski and to cycle using my legs.”
To the prospective supporters of WAS, Daniel had this to say: “Give as much as you possibly can! This is a really good one. Like they say in my physical therapy, give till it hurts!”
“I enlisted in the Navy Air Corps (now called naval aviation) and served for 2.5 years. My basic training was at the Great Lakes Naval Station in Illinois. I waited there to get into Naval Air Force training. All I wanted to do was fly, but the war ended too soon. I would consider myself patriotic and to me, that is putting the needs of the country above the needs of yourself.”
Bob has been participating with WAS since last summer and he really enjoys cycling and skiing with the program. When talking with Bob about his experience with WAS he said, “It’s really a worthwhile program. It helps us a lot both mentally and physically. In my younger years, I had both knees replaced and the doctor said I couldn’t run so I started biking. I would ride my bike 25 to 26 miles a day back home in North Dakota. One of my favorite memories from my participation with WAS is racing Anna Beninati (Paralympian and WAS instructor) three times around Liberty Park. My favorite part of skiing with Wasatch Adaptive Sports is going fast! The similarities between participating with WAS and serving in the Navy is the community feel and the friendly people.”
“I served in the Navy as a weapons expert – torpedo bomber – for 21 years in the Vietnam War. During my service, I did seven different submarine tours each lasting 90 to 100 days. There were about 125 sailors and 25 officers on the submarine at one time. While we were highly trained in missile deployment, we only ever had to launch the missiles for practice. One of my favorite memories from my time living on a submarine was the undercover newsletter called ‘The Black Dallion’. We created it to play jokes on people, to pass the time, and bring camaraderie. I wrote about officers and fellow service members doing comical things while on the submarine. It was mostly funny stuff that nobody knew about except for maybe the people highlighted in the story. We would go around at night when everybody was sleeping and post a new newsletter once a week. We had nicknames for everyone and one specific officer we called ‘Mr. Squeaky’ because his shoes squeaked when he walked, giving away his presence when he was sneaking up on us during technical training.
Now that I am in the VA nursing home, I look forward to the days I get to participate with WAS. I enjoy the camaraderie and social part of it. I’ve been cycling with WAS since last summer. It has strengthened my legs and helps my attitude psychologically. It’s a release from the regular activities at the VA and you feel free. When I first saw other people with adaptive needs [at the VA nursing home] think they couldn’t participate in recreation and successfully begin biking or skiing, it gave me positive motivation to say, ‘If they can do it, so can I!'”
The Wasatch Adaptive Sports Veterans Program is honored to serve Daniel, Bob, and Ted, as well as many other veterans of all ages and ability who seek connection to the outdoors through recreational programs. If you or someone you know is interested in participating in WAS’s Veterans Program, please contact us at 801.933.2188 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. We also invite you to join us on December 15th for our Highly Decorated event at Snowbird Resort. This tree lighting ceremony honors the service and sacrifice of our veterans, active military, and their families. For more information, visit: https://wasatchadaptivesports.org/event/highly-decorated/.