Editor’s Note: VAntage Point is reporting from the 2014 National Veterans Sports Clinic, Sept. 7-12. This is the first a series of blogs from the event.
Veterans from across the United States arrived in San Diego and at Naval Base Coronado to participate in VA’s National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic (NVSSC). The week-long event, now in its seventh year, challenges and empowers Veterans with disabilities through activities such as surfing, cycling and kayaking with the help of volunteers and VA’s Adaptive Sports program.
“To the coaches and recreational therapists – your service to Veterans is invaluable,” VA Assistant Secretary for Operations, Security and Preparedness Kevin T. Hanretta said during the NVSSC opening ceremony at Coronado Theater. “You help Veterans to become stronger and to regain . I want to thank the Veteran athletes for coming here to compete, and showing us all what courage, drive and determination are all about.”
Hosted by VA San Diego Healthcare System, the clinic is designed to help Veterans with disabilities become physically active during their rehabilitation. For many Veterans, it’s a great way to find the camaraderie they miss from their time in the military, and to heal some of their invisible wounds by regaining confidence and self-worth.
This year, 130 Veterans, including 94 first-time participants, will try their hand at sports they might have considered impossible before the event.
For Theotis D. Smith, a U.S. Marine Corps and Army Veteran, the chance to represent both Veterans and employees of Edward Hines, Jr. VA Hospital at the clinic is the culmination of his rehabilitation journey.
“I’m extremely happy to be given this chance,” Smith said. “Before working with VA Adaptive Sports, I was just at home looking at four walls and depressed. Now my life has become a joy. I want to try every program VA offers.”
When asked what event he was most excited about, the Chicago native said he couldn’t wait to go sailing.
“I got to sail a few times in Chicago,” he said. “I have 10-inch rods running up and down my back, so when I got out on the water and look at what God created for us – all of my pain goes away.”