Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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Local Disabled Veterans Ski the Rocky Mountains

March 24, 2008

HOUSTON — Eight disabled veterans who receive treatment at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center will be among 450 other disabled veterans from across the country, including nearly 120 recently injured during Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF), to ski the Rocky Mountains at the 22nd National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic in Snowmass Village, March 30 – April 4, 2008.

The local veterans attending  this year include David Fowler, 47, an Army veteran from Katy; Evo Marini, 62, an Air Force veteran from Bailey Prairie, William Watson, 45, an Army veteran from Needville; Dillon Cannon, 21, an Army veteran from Sugar Land; Rebecca Johnson, 52, an Army veteran from Houston; Nicholas Martin, 22, an Army veteran from LaPorte; Steven Schulz, 23, a Marine veteran from Friendswood and David King, 57, a Coast Guard veteran from West Columbia.

Co-sponsored by VA and the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), the Clinic is a world leader in promoting rehabilitation by instructing veterans with disabilities in adaptive Alpine and Nordic skiing, and introducing them to a number of other adaptive recreational activities and sports.  For many newly injured veterans, the Clinic offers them their first experiences in winter sports and gives them the inspiration for continued self development.

“This will be my first athletic event since I was injured,” said Martin.  “It’s a chance for me to prove to myself that I can still do things.” 

The Clinic is an annual rehabilitation program open to U.S. military veterans with traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, orthopedic amputations, visual impairments, certain neurological problems and other disabilities who receive care at a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facility or military treatment facility. 

At the six-day event, veterans will also learn rock climbing, scuba diving, snowmobiling, curling and sled hockey.  The U.S. Secret Service will provide a course on self-defense.  All activities are designed to help participants develop winter sports skills and take part in a variety of other adaptive sports and workshops, which demonstrate that having a physical or visual disability need not be an obstacle to an active, rewarding life.

This year, the Clinic will again offer an innovative race training and development program designed for elite-level skiers.  The program has been made possible through an agreement with the United States Olympic Committee and is used to identify potential Paralympic athletes, the Olympic equivalent for world class athletes with disabilities.  A number of these elite athletes began their winter sports endeavors through skills they learned at the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic.

“Each year this Clinic enhances the physical, social, and emotional well-being of the veterans who participate in this life changing event,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. James B. Peake.  “Not only does the Clinic motivate veterans, young and old, to reach for their full potential and enjoy a higher quality of life, but it also gives them a strong sense of purpose and camaraderie with their fellow veterans.”

Known for inspiring "Miracles on the Mountainside," the Clinic shows that the lives of disabled veterans can be changed forever when they discover the challenges they can overcome. 

“As a disabled veteran and ski instructor at the Winter Sports Clinic, I can personally vouch for the amazing impact it has on the lives of our participants,” said DAV National Commander Robert T. Reynolds.  “Thanks to the wonderful partnership between the DAV and the Department of Veterans Affairs, these miracles will once again take place in the lives of many of our deserving wounded warriors.”

VA is a recognized leader in rehabilitative and recreational therapies. With 153 medical centers, VA operates more than 1,400 sites of care, including 895 ambulatory care and community-based outpatient clinics, 135 nursing homes, 47 residential rehabilitation treatment programs, 209 Vet Centers and 108 comprehensive home-care programs.  The DAV is a non-profit, congressionally chartered veterans service organization with a membership of more than one million wartime disabled veterans.

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