|06-11-2005, 07:48 AM||#1 (permalink)|
MSgt USMC Ret
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: San Diego
Program Keeps Soldiers Active in Sports
June 11, 2005
EDMOND, Okla. - Shelly Daniels remembers the attack that sent her home from Iraq. It's the next 3 weeks she doesn't recall.
Daniels, an Army specialist from Blackwell, suffered nerve damage, a collapsed lung, broken ribs and a broken shoulder blade when the vehicle she was riding in near Abu Ghraib was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in October 2003.
The attack also resulted in a traumatic injury to her brain and sent her into a coma for 3 weeks.
"When it hit me, my body went pretty much dead," Daniels said.
Daniels had surgery and spent six months in rehabilitation. She no longer has a collarbone. She takes nerve medication and antidepressants, as well as two different kinds of painkillers.
But the 21-year-old Daniels is moving on. She's one of 20 troops injured in Iraq competing this weekend in the Endeavor Games, a three-day event that gives anyone with a physical disability a chance to compete on an even field with peers. Daniels plans to swim the 50-yard backstroke and 50-yard freestyle.
"Just because you have a disability doesn't mean you don't have the ability," Daniels said. "It's just a different ability."
Oscar Olguin, who lost a piece of his right leg, muscles in his left leg and a ligament in his right elbow in an attack near Ramadi, Iraq, plans to compete in the javelin, the air rifle and the air pistol. Other events include archery, wheelchair basketball, tennis and wheelchair softball.
Olguin, who was guarding medics when a suicide car bomber attacked his unit in October, was approached by Disabled Sports USA about joining the Endeavor Games. He has also taken part in a skiing event for wounded soldiers and plans to give water skiing a try, too.
"They have a lot of stuff for us. It's pretty neat," Olguin said. "We always have a good time."
Disabled Sports USA, based in Rockville, Md., teamed with the United Spinal Association's Wounded Warrior Project to create a program encouraging soldiers injured in combat to get active through sports.
The Wounded Warrior Disabled Sports Project arranges for the soldiers to participate in the events across the country ranging from cycling and golf to rock climbing or snowboarding. The group also arranges wheelchair basketball and kayaking training for much of the year at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.
Later this year, soldiers will be given the chance to take a high-country adventure in Aspen, Colo., with horseback riding, kayaking and canoeing. Another event will allow them to go water skiing in New York.
"We really have been able to take them and send them all over the country to get a varied and rich experience in different sports activities," said Kirk Bauer, executive director of Disabled Sports USA.
Bauer said his group is funded entirely through private donations and relies on partnerships with other entities to function. In this case, the University of Central Oklahoma worked with Disabled Sports USA to help defray the costs of the soldiers' trips and make sure trained personnel would be on hand at the sporting events.
"The bottom line is we don't want the soldier to pay," Bauer said.
Disabled Sports USA gets in touch with soldiers mostly through the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.
"What we want to do is get them while they're in the hospital going through rehabilitation," Bauer said. "Pretty much their lives have been turned upside down."
Bauer said soldiers usually respond one of three ways:
- They're eager to get active again and challenge themselves;
- They're overwhelmed by their injuries and don't want to talk to anybody;
- Or they're a little interested, but just unsure if they can do it.
The organization hopes to convince injured soldiers they can still lead productive lives.
"We use sports to do that," Bauer said. "They start to realize they can be active, they share these things with their families and they really get a boost."
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