Saturday, September 22, 2012
A few dozen military veterans from across the country took advantage of the last day of summer in San Diego. They went kayaking on Mission Bay using specially adapted vessels for people with disabilities.
Most of the veterans are from the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They've come to San Diego for the annual one week Summer Sports clinic put on by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Their injuries are seen and unseen, from spinal cord and loss of limbs to traumatic brain injury and PTSD.
"Ah, this is great, great weather, here with all the veterans, can't ask for anything more," Navy veteran Cory See said.
He loves the water and served two years in the Navy before his injury. "I have kayaked before, but it was a long time ago, so this is all new, especially with the football and all these sports going on, it's really neat," he said, paddling his way along the Mission Bay shore.
Adapting to life as an amputee is also new for See, 24. He lost part of his left leg when he was hit by a drunk driver while riding his motorcycle, but it only motivated him more, and that's what the VA hopes to do with these sports clinics.
"This is the greatest stuff ever, they've got us out here playing football in these kayaks, you forget that you even have a disability, missing a leg, you just become one with everything else, throwing that football around. It's awesome," See said.
From playing football on the water to sailing, surfing, even track and field, this is rehab for the mind, body and soul. Studies show disabled veterans who participate in adaptive sports have less stress, reduced dependency on pain and depression medication and higher achievement in education and employment.
"We all have bumps in the road, it's what you do when you get back up," See said. "This mission redefined has probably been the best thing that's happened in my life. I don't know where I'd be today, if it wasn't for what's going on. All these other veterans when they smile, it just gives me chills, goose bumps, makes me feel good. It's good stuff man, there's a lot of healing power out here."
Cory See now has a new goal to compete in the 2016 Paralympic's in Brazil.
The VA also holds a winter Sports Clinic and Creative Arts festival, among other things. The goal is to help injured vets discover new interests and improve their self esteem and well being.