On your mark! Sports help wounded warriors

December 28, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
To date, more than 6,400 U.S. men and women serving in the military have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

At least 48,000 have returned home wounded. For many who've lost limbs, their sight or their sanity everyday life is their greatest challenge. Now, their mission is being re-defined, and thousands have new hope and a new life.

Surfing, kayaking, climbing and more; all of this is helping our wounded warriors adjust to post-war life.

Steven Bradford was a sniper in Baghdad. During recon missions, he had close calls with 15 IEDs.

"I had major depressive disorder," Steven Bradford, a Paralympian, tells Action News.

Now, he's learning how to throw shot-put from the U.S. Paralympic world record holder Scott Winkler, paralyzed while serving in Iraq, who is here with other Paralympians teaching wounded warriors about living life without limbs and without pity.

Paralympian Scott Winkler says, "I didn't know what to expect in life. I felt like I wasn't a soldier anymore. I didn't know. I was angry."

But his new passion is helping him through.

"If you believe, you can achieve," continues Winkler.

Dan Thornhill lost his legs in a car bombing in Afghanistan.

"This is the first time I've been in one of these racing chairs," Paralympian Dan Thornhill says.

Paralympian Cece Mazyck is teaching him how to race. She lost the use of her legs in a parachuting accident.

"When I jumped out, I got entangled with another jumper," explains Cece Mazyck.

Army vet and amputee John Register runs the veterans' programs for the U.S. Olympic committee. He says learning a new sport saved him, and he believes it will save others.

"We have to get them to change their perspective about their situation," John Register tells Action News.

It's inspiration through rehabilitation.

Bradford explains that, "Being physical is a huge part of the healing process."

And most importantly, "There is life after injury," concludes Winkler.

The VA sponsors six national rehabilitation events each year, and you don't have to be a Paralympian to take part in the adaptive sports programs. Veterans can go to our web site to learn more about adaptive and community sports programs offered by the VA.

For more information, please contact:

Veterans Sports Programs
www.va.gov/adaptivesports

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