Air Force Veteran Eyes Paralympic Medal Podium
Wisdom From Wheelchair
Rugby’s “Coach Gumbie”
Target Practice for
va .gov/adaptivesportsspring 2013
Fast Mover: For more than 25 years, hundreds of Veterans
of all eras have turned out for the annual National
Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, hosted on and
near the champagne-powdery slopes of Snowmass,
Colo. The rewards: rehabilitation, perspiration and
good, old-fashioned inspiration. Just ask Glenn McClary
(Marines Ret.), photographed here, just plain stoked.
2 spring 2013 va .gov/adaptivesports
Field day: John Dunbar (Marines Ret.)
of Eugene, Ore., in the moment at the
National Veterans Summer Sports
Clinic in San Diego, Calif.
spring 2013va .gov/adaptivesports 3
On target: Babette Peyton (Army Ret.) lines up
a shot at the archery event at the 32nd National
Veterans Wheelchair Games. (Photo by Ken Holt)
Twist and shout: Richard Narushoff
(Air Force Ret.) throws a discus in one
of 14 events at the Golden Age Games.
4 spring 2013 va .gov/adaptivesports
This will be another
From the skiers and snowboarders in
Snowmass Village to the artists and
performers in Boston, I’ve heard it
again and again at each of our national
events. Every Veteran has a story about
challenges overcome, goals met and lives
changed. And while each circumstance
is unique, the theme of every story is the
same: “Life is different now, but through
adaptive sports, it’s focused again.”
When a Veteran’s mission in the
military ends, especially because of an
injury, many are left wondering, now
what? The objective, or at least the path
to it, is dramatically altered. That’s where
the idea of “Mission ReDefined” was born.
It’s the idea that, as former Servicemen
and Servicewomen, you have the tools to
successfully map your road to recovery
by adapting your goals. And as the motto
for VA’s Office of National Veterans Sports
Programs & Special Events, we use the
Mission ReDefined brand to highlight
resources designed for you.
VA National Veterans Sports
Programs & Special Events Office
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Suite 915B Washington, DC 20420
You can start with this magazine. I hope
you find inspiration in Sean Halsted’s
Mission ReDefined and the other coverage
of Veterans who have sustained life-
changing injuries, but who are not
sidelined. You can also visit our website,
www.va.gov/adaptivesports, where you
can find information on any of our seven
national events. Check out our Sports
Club Finder to locate adaptive sports
programs in your community. Or learn
about our Olympic Opportunity Fund,
which provides funds to community
organizations that offer adaptive sports
programs and support Veteran athletes
training in Paralympic programs. Mission
ReDefined means tools to help you get
your life, or mission, back on track.
So here’s the bottom line: no excuses.
Take what you’ve learned in the service
and throughout life, and put it into place
today. You’ve got challenges. Confront
them. You’ve got goals. Meet them. Make
the decision to achieve your personal
best and redefine your mission.
Thanks for pushing yourself all year
to live your own Mission ReDefined.
Acting Director, National Veterans
Sports Programs & Special Events
spring 2013va .gov/adaptivesports 5
Air Force Veteran Sean Halsted
trains for the 2014 Paralympic
U.S. National Wheelchair Rugby
Team coach tackles Veterans’
most common excuses for not
trying adaptive sports
Office of National Veterans
Sports Programs & Special
Events programming on
tap for 2013
Anatomy of a sit ski
Great Moments in
Veteran Athletes on
the Big Screen
Funding for Adaptive
Rifles for Therapy
How to prevent
How do I know I’m
seated right for my sport?
A plan for everyday
A breakdown of calories
burned by 30 minutes of
your favorite activity
After Action Sports welcomes article and photo submissions. Veterans, family members and organizations that support Veterans are welcome to submit stories to
vacoadaptiveSP@va.gov. Submitting content does not guarantee it will be published in After Action Sports, but we do review and appreciate all submissions. Please be sure
to include your full contact information on all submissions, so we may contact you if we decide to use your material. Upon submission, all submitted work—including but not limited to
photos, articles and video—becomes the property of After Action Sports and will not be returned. Due to the volume of submissions we receive, we cannot reply to every submission.
6 spring 2013 va .gov /adaptivesports
George Eyser wins
six medals for Team
USA while competing
(gymnastics) with a
wooden leg in the St.
Louis Olympic Games.
Wendel creates the
first adaptive ski by
attaching a pair of
crutches to short
skis after his leg
in Adaptive Sports
Twenty U.S. military Veterans and
active duty Service members participated
in the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
Eight brought home a total of 13 medals
for Team USA. “In the military there is a
strong feeling of family,” says Kari Miller,
35 (Army 1995-1999), from Washington,
D.C. “Competing in the Paralympics, I felt
that camaraderie come back. It’s a way to
be part of a family again.”
Miller, who lost her legs at age 22 to a
drunk driver, led the U.S. women’s sitting
volleyball team to Paralympic silver. “It’s
a team sport and you’re playing together,
fighting a little battle together, and you
have a bond,” Miller says.
Active-duty Navy Lt. Brad Snyder,
28, won gold in the 100-meter and
400-meter freestyle events, and silver
in the 50-meter freestyle race. The 2006
Naval Academy graduate, blinded in 2011
in Afghanistan by an IED blast, was also
selected by his teammates to serve as flag
bearer in the closing ceremony.
Oz Sanchez, 36 (Marines 1995-
2001), brought home bronze in the
individual C1-3 cycling road race. He
and teammates also won gold in the
mixed H1-4 cycling relay. Sanchez
served two deployments in the Middle
East before he was paralyzed, waist-
down, in a motorcycle crash. Former
West Point cadet Jennifer Schuble,
36, brought home a silver medal in
the 500-meter time trial and a bronze
medal in the team sprints.
Medal count: Team USA,
including Oz Sanchez
(cycling) and Kari Miller
(sitting volleyball), won
13 medals at the London
2012 Paralympic Games.
Rob Jones, 27 (Marines 2008-2010),
won bronze in the mixed double sculls
rowing event. Angela Madsen, 52
(Marines 1979-1981), and Army Veteran
Scot Severn, 44, each took home bronze
medals in shot put. Madsen received
the “Women Who Inspire Us” award by
the Amateur Athletic Foundation. Will
Groulx, 38 (Navy 1995-2001), captained
the U.S. Men’s Wheelchair Rugby team,
which brought home the bronze medal.
Team USA also included: active-duty
Army Sgt. First Class Josh Olson, 33
(archery), and Marine Corporal Rene
Renteria, 23 (soccer); Air Force Veteran
Mario Rodriguez, 53 (wheelchair fencing);
Army Veterans Dugie Denton, 42 (archery),
Russell Wolfe, 43 (archery), Eric Hollen,
47 (shooting), Gavin Sibayan, 31 (soccer),
CeCe Mazyck, 36 (track and field) and
Scott Winkler, 39 (track and field); Army
National Guard Veteran Jerry Shields,
57 (archery); and Navy Veterans Steven
Peace, 38 (cycling), and Christopher
Clemens, 38 (track and field).
Veterans with the drive and skills
to compete in the Paralympics and
other international adaptive sports
events may qualify for a training
allowance. The funds can cover
training, coaching and support.
More on how to qualify and apply at:
spring 2013va .gov /adaptivesports 7
First competition for
wheelchair athletes held
on opening day of the
XIV Olympics in London,
sports’ importance for
The first Paralympic
Games are held in
Rome, Italy, and ever
since have been held
in the same years as
the Olympic Games.
Wounded Veterans Star in
What it’s about Released on the 10-year
anniversary of September 11, 2001, the film
features detailed interviews of Veterans
who were injured while fighting in Iraq and
Afghanistan. Veterans, Soldiers and care
providers come together to encourage
individual and community resilience.
Why see it Men and women, young
and old give an account of 9/11, sharing
stories of sacrifice and healing.
Sweden hosts first
First National Veterans
Wheelchair Games are
held at the VA Medical
Center in Richmond, Va.
74 Veterans from
Memorable Quote “You don’t
have to be running a marathon;
you don’t have to be climbing a
mountain. It’s about where you are
right now and making the most and
the best you can.”
—Col. Gregory Gadson
Director of the U.S. Army Ft. Belvoir
Garrison, who lost both legs in Iraq
to Beijing (2009)
What it’s about Led by the first
blind man to reach the summit of
Mount Everest, 11 disabled Veterans
set off on an expedition to climb a
20,000-foot Himalayan peak.
Why see it The People’s Choice
Award-winning film offers proof
that amputated legs, blindness and
post-traumatic stress disorder
(PTSD) are hurdles, not roadblocks.
Memorable quote “You don’t
unbuild a soldier. You can hope and
pray that he can mind his P’s and
Q’s, the way he acts most of the
time. But all in all you’re training a
guy to fight.”
What it’s about After losing
limbs and suffering from paralysis
in Operation Iraqi Freedom, four
Veterans set their sights on the
2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing.
Warrior athletes Kortney Clemons
(Army), Carlos Leon (Marines),
Melissa Stockwell (Army) and
Scott Winkler (Army) defy doctors’
expectations and fight for their
country in a new way.
Why see it Showcase of
unbelievable mental and physical
resilience and endurance.
Memorable quote “I’ve done
more in life with one leg than I ever
would have done with two.”
–Cody Miranda (Marines Ret.),
PTSD and traumatic brain
injury after 18 years of service
8 spring 2013 va .gov /adaptivesports
Albany, Ga., hosts first
Golden Age Games—
now the largest
for Veterans age 55
The Americans with
to public sports and
New Zealand’s Neroli
Fairhall becomes the
first athlete (archery)
to compete in both
the Paralympics (1980)
and the Olympic
BY the numbers
Weeks per year VA
funding is available
VA OFFice of national veterans sports programs & special events
Keep up with Programming news on twitter
We are committed to giving Veterans
every opportunity to engage in sports
and recreation 52 weeks a year, because
we believe that regular participation
in these activities improves Veterans’
physical and mental well-being.”
March 2013January 2012
Office of National Veterans Sports
Programs & Special Events funding since
January 2012 for new adaptive sports
programming at VA medical facilities
spring 2013va .gov /adaptivesports 9
First Warrior Games.
Offers introduction to
sports for injured
Marla Runyan, legally
blind, finishes 8th in
the 1,500-meter race
at the Sydney Summer
Olympics. It is a record
finish for American
women in the event.
becomes the first
legally blind person
to reach the summit
of Mt. Everest.
2012 Navy Lt. Brad
Snyder, takes home
gold one year after
by an explosion in
Champion athletes say success is not found in the
competition—it’s found in the preparation. “If you fail
to prepare, you’re prepared to fail,” Olympic great
Mark Spitz once said.
By placing state-of-the-art training equipment
in the communities of Veteran athletes, the Office of
National Veterans Sports Programs & Special Events is
committed to providing top-notch training opportunities
for Veterans who want to reach their personal best.
The office has purchased the first competitive rifle
systems for visually impaired Veterans to use at VA
facilities in Boston, Long Beach, Calif., and Palo Alto,
Calif. The Eko-Aims E-BSS shooting system is the
same system used by the International Paralympic
Committee in biathlon competitions worldwide.
The rifle emits a series of beeps that increase in
frequency and pitch as the
shooter closes in on targets.
The new shooting systems
will be used at VA’s Blind
Rehabilitation Centers to restore
confidence, enhance concentration and
develop new skills for Veterans who are living
with vision loss. “The feedback from Veterans who
have used this device is very positive,” says Rachel
Smith, recreational therapist at the Palo Alto
Veterans Affairs Medical Center. “Veterans
have found a way to accept and overcome
visual deficits and focus on re-
engaging in a recreational activity
they once enjoyed.”
Vets Shoot At What They Can’t See
va .gov /adaptivesports10 spring 2013
Keeping your skin healthy should be a top priority. (See: “A Sore
Thing”) A wound from pressure or a scrape from a bad transfer could
keep you out of the game or even land you back in the hospital.
The one-size-fits-all approach just doesn’t work for sports.
You should be positioned so you feel stable and supported, but
not restricted. That will vary depending on your sport and your
physical abilities. There are specialized cushions and seating
supports to help with positioning.
When use of one body part is compromised, your other joints and
muscles work overtime. To save what you have, use the right
equipment, customize it for your needs and always use good
techniques—not only for your sport, but also for transferring in
and out of equipment, carrying bags and pushing your wheelchair
or using crutches.
The sores are caused by shoes being too tight, deflated seat
cushions and other issues of medical equipment misfit. And they
will quickly put you off your game, says Susan Pejoro, a 19-year
spinal cord injury nurse practitioner, now deputy director for the
Office of National Veterans Sports Programs & Special Events.
Pejoro says the most important thing to know about pressure
ulcers is to try not getting one in the first place. Her tips for doing
so follow. “I know the military mentality is just keep going, power
through the pain,” she says. “But preventing pressure ulcers in the
first place is just a huge, huge, huge big deal.”
A Sore Thing
How Do I Know
I’m Seated Right?
Regardless of your sport, there are three key concepts
that every seated athlete must consider, says Kendra
Betz, MSPT, ATP, the prosthetic clinical coordinator
with VA’s Prosthetic and Sensory Aids Service.
Look to your clinical providers
and coaches to help determine
what you need.
Pressure ulcers can lead to soft
tissue infections, bone infections,
the need for long-term antibiotics
and even amputation. When your
skin isn’t healing or you’re otherwise
in doubt, get a medical evaluation.
Underlying medical conditions may
be part of the problem.
The most common cause of pressure
ulcers is forgetting to relieve
pressure every 20 minutes in areas
where sensation may be less than
normal. “Do pressure reliefs for 30
seconds and be sure your adaptive
medical equipment is in good,
working condition,” Pejoro says.
Check your skin twice daily for any
skin changes like red spots or
warmth over boney areas, open
wounds, or even unexpected
drainage on your clothes. Use
a long-handled mirror or get
someone to look for you.
Eat a well-balanced diet and drink
plenty of fluids to keep hydrated.
(See “Food for Your Battle”) And quit
tobacco use. “Tobacco decreases
blood circulation and puts you more
at risk,” Pejoro says.
Empty your bowel and bladder
regularly. The acid in stool and
urine can cause chemical burns
to the skin. “Accidents can stink
in more ways than the obvious,”
Proper seating: One
size does not fit all.
Anyone who uses a prosthetic or
wheelchair is subject to pressure
ulcers—those burning, open skin
sores that develop over boney areas
like ankles, sitting bones or hips.
“Don’t forget the basics,” Betz
says. “If you don’t pay attention
to these three concepts, you
may end up with a real problem.”
Food for Your Battle
What’s missing in those images? The food that made them go.
Good nutrition is vital for energy and strength, says Victoria
Della Rocca, a registered dietitian at the Philadelphia VA
Medical Center. Here she offers a recipe for fueling your next
win. “A daily commitment to good nutrition leads to increased
energy, stamina and performance,” Della Rocca says.
Balance your plate
You know the diet building blocks:
carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
Each nutrient plays a vital role.
Carbohydrates like whole grains
fuel muscles, increase stamina,
decrease fatigue and feed your
brain. High-quality protein builds and
repairs muscle. Fat also helps fuel
muscle and helps your body use key
vitamins. According to the American
College of Sports Medicine, athletes
should balance their calories with
55 to 65 percent carbohydrates, 10
to 15 percent protein and 25 to 30
percent fat. “I recommend following
MyPlate [choosemyplate.gov],” Della
Rocca says. “Half your plate from
vegetables, a quarter from starch
and a quarter from meat.”
(breaststroke) 300 372 444
270 335 400
240 298 355
210 260 311
210 260 311
120 149 178
149 112 133
Eat small meals, often
Eating five to six small meals in a
day keeps you feeling full, keeps
your blood sugar stable and helps
you keep a constant source of
energy. Go for at least two of the
three diet building blocks in each
meal—covering all three over the
course of the day. Skipping meals
drains your energy stores. Skipping
breakfast is an especially bad idea,
Della Rocca says. Researchers
found a group that consumed a
400 calorie breakfast three hours
before they exercised could go
136 minutes prior to exhaustion.
In the same study, the group that
did not consume breakfast stalled
out after 109 minutes.
Aim to drink a half-ounce to an ounce
of water per pound of body weight.
“The average guy who goes and
works out at the gym doesn’t need a
sports drink,” Della Rocca says. “Our
bodies are designed to be hydrated
by water. It’s the best detoxifier.”
Refuel and Restore
After a workout, your muscle fibers
are drained of stored energy and
your veins are enlarged. Jumpstart
muscle restoration by drinking water
immediately after your workout. Then
within 15 to 30 minutes, eat a snack
packed with protein and carbohydrates.
Muscle growth is stimulated by
muscle damage, Della Rocca says.
Timing of refueling is critical. “If you
are training for something, you need
to have very consistent routines,”
she says. “If you’re not refueling,
you’ll be working on a deficit.”
A breakdown of
calories burned by
30 minutes of your
For more activities, see:
spring 2013va .gov /adaptivesports 11
Sports magazines love to feature
the intensity of competition:
photos of steely eyes, clenched
jaws, outstretched arms and legs.
spring 2013va .gov/adaptivesports 13
BY JONATHAN GOMEZ
Meet Sean Halsted: Air Force Veteran
and U.S. Paralympic Team Member
There’s a home video on YouTube that shows just
how much one can accomplish after free-falling
from a helicopter into paralysis.
Sean Halsted, 42, stars in the video. He’s an Air
Force Veteran who retired in 1998 because of his fall.
Halsted’s wife, Sarah, made the video to
document her husband’s rise from the wetland floor
of Hurlburt Field in Florida to the snowy peaks of
Whistler Mountain in British Columbia. Three years
ago at Whistler, Halsted competed in three events at
the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games. He
didn’t medal, but he’s training for a second chance.
As of this writing, Halsted is on track to qualify for
the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
Halsted credits his experience at the National
Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic for igniting
his Paralympic dream. “My jaw dropped,” he says
of his experience at the 2001 clinic. “I sat there,
watching people push themselves like I used to and
wondered, ‘How much time did I waste?’”
14 spring 2013 va .gov/adaptivesports
Feb 21–Mar 3
Utah U.S. Nationals
Halsted’s sport is cross-country (Nordic) skiing. It’s
the one most often featuring participants who pull
(with poles), skate (when they are able) and cruise
on long, slender skis along courses ranging from
one to 20 kilometers long.
Halsted is paralyzed from the waist down, so he
competes in a kneeling position on a specialized sit
ski, which takes any measure of skating out of the
mix. “It’s fun being out there in the woods and on
the slopes, pushing yourself to the limit all while
being in a serene environment,” says Halsted, who
tried sled hockey and wheelchair basketball before
going all-in on cross-country skiing.
Pushing himself is not new for the Pacific
Northwesterner. Halsted ran cross country through
high school. In college at Washington State University,
he rowed crew. His dad was in the Air Force, which led
him to join. The accident, in 1998, happened during
a search-and-rescue training exercise. The combat
controller fell 40 feet to the ground and shattered his
L1 vertebrae. “My entire life was active, on the move,
and suddenly it was gone,” he says.
Through early rehab, Halsted says he began
thinking his life would be spent on the couch
surfing the Internet and playing Nintendo—which
would have been completely foreign to him just a
few months before. “As a combat controller, you
have these expectations,” he says. “You can’t accept
sitting in your room.”
Of course, to remain competitive on the World
Cup circuit Halsted does have needs—specifically
in terms of intense and continuous training.
He trains six days a week. Three of those days
include double sessions. He trains near his home
in Rathdrum, Idaho, and on the road, regardless
of how tired he is from traveling. “Something is
better than nothing,” Halsted says. “In the past,
if I was worn out from traveling, I’d take the day
off. This year, I’m making sure I do something. It’s
still a challenge. I mean, I can’t just go out for a
run. My shoes are a $5,000 wheelchair.”
In his words:
Watch an interview
with Halsted at:
Winter Sports Clinic
Halsted struggled for two years before reluctantly
attending the National Disabled Veterans Winter
Sports Clinic and finding inspiration. Established
in 1986, the Winter Sports Clinic shows disabled
Active Duty Soldiers and Veterans that an active
life is still attainable. “I saw them [fellow Veterans]
with kids, with families,” he says. “I saw them
living. All these things I thought that were taken
from me, these people were enjoying.”
Since the clinic, Halsted has pulled his way to a
spot as one of four members of the U.S. Paralympic
Nordic Ski Team. The sport has led him around the
world, including the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games in
Vancouver, where he finished among the top 10 in the 1
kilometer sprint, and 10 km and 15 km competitions.
Halsted and his wife also have started a
family: twins Ethan and Rileigh, 8, and Keelie, 3.
Days once spent sulking are now spent balancing
time as an athlete and a father. “It’s a double-edge
sword,” Halsted explains. “I want to set an example
for them as an athlete and a hard-worker, but I also
just want to be there as a father. There are days
I’m trying to go work out, but Sarah and I have to
coordinate getting one kid to soccer and another to
gymnastics. And what if one of them gets sick? The
last thing I’m worrying about is my own needs.”
Try your hand: Halsted was inspired
to try cross-country skiing after
watching fellow Veterans in action
“I want to set an
example for them.”
spring 2013va .gov/adaptivesports 15
otherwise would be impassable. Today, more than
4.5 million people participate in cross-country skiing,
pushing their bodies to their personal limits.
Halsted believes the intensity and self-mastery
that his sport demands may also appeal to his
While he is determined to reach the medal podium
at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi
(pronounced: so-chee), Russia, Halsted also thinks
about other men and women who become disabled in
their military service and ask the questions he once
did. “Gold isn’t the be-all-end-all goal,” he says. “I
mean, yeah, I want to win. But if I get someone off the
couch and wanting to do something, that’ll mean just
as much to me. If I can be that example that people
can touch, people can see, people can grasp, that’ll
make the whole Paralympic Movement grow.”
In other words, Halsted hopes to change fellow
disabled Veterans the way the Winter Sports Clinic
changed him. “I’ve heard disabled people say, ‘I’m
not going to do sports because I don’t need a charity
medal,” Halsted says. “You try it and tell me if it’s
To maintain and build upper-body endurance
during the off-season, Halsted rows and handcycles.
Yet, he’s relatively relaxed about his diet. “To be
honest, I just eat what we feed our kids,” he says.
“My body’s damaged, I know that. I can’t eat as
much as able-bodied athletes. I’ll have three normal
meals with a couple snacks in between. I’m not
religious about my diet.”
With World Cup circuit stops in Poland, Ukraine,
Sweden and Russia, the flexible attitude serves him
well. “You get what you get,” he says about training
facilities and food on the road. “If there are weights, I’ll
use them. If there’s nothing, I’ll stick with plyometrics.
As for food, if I’m in Germany, I’ll eat like Germans.
If I’m in Russia, I’ll eat like Russians. If that means
eating fish for the tenth time in a row in Norway, so be
it. If the food doesn’t agree with me, oh well.”
Whether or not the Nordic region’s diet staples agree
with Halsted, the region’s sport certainly does. Cross-
country skiing was born in the mountains of Finland,
Norway and Sweden as a means of transportation
over snowy and icy terrain. Hunters and soldiers took
to Nordic skiing before civilians found joy in skiing
across open fields and mountainous terrain that
Team Halsted (L to R): Ethan,
Sean, Rileigh, Keelie and Sarah
Sochi, Russia: Host of the next
Paralympic Winter Games
Home Video: Sarah’s
Tribute at: http://bit.ly/
16 spring 2013 va .gov/adaptivesports
ExcusesWheelchair rugby’s “Coach Gumbie” says get in the
game and you’ll get some of your old life back
Few people could make a strong case
for rolling a wheelchair in the path of
another one coming full steam to your
end of the court.
Odds are James Gumbert could do it.
“Coach Gumbie” is the beloved coach of
the U.S. Paralympics National Wheelchair
Rugby Team—a sport originally named
“murderball” for its full-contact intensity.
Gumbert has heard every reason in the
book why not to get out there and try
adaptive sports. Here he takes on the most
common ones. “When I got injured, the
thing that was scary to me was my idea of
what being in a wheelchair was,” Gumbert
says. “But you have a choice. You can sit at
home and think about that pain that you’re
in, or you can go out and get rid of it.”
spring 2013va .gov/adaptivesports 17
I can’t do sports
because I’m disabled.
JG: It’s normal to be skeptical when
someone says, “Here’s something you
can do that will change your life.”
It’s important to acknowledge that
life is not going to be the same, but you
can still find happiness.
Once we get people to come in
and play a sport, maybe something
they used to play, whether it’s in a
wheelchair or walking, it gives them
hope and says to them, “Here’s a little
bit of your old life back.”
When they can see their freedom again,
they can taste it, and they can feel it.
So before you say no, come watch.
Just come see how we can give you a
little bit back of who you were.
I have pain and don’t
want to do it.
JG: There are two types of pain in my
world. The first is emotional pain, when
it’s mentally hard to get motivated
to do anything. For a lot of people in
wheelchairs, they’ve had the people in
their life telling you, “You can’t do this.”
Or, “You’re not going to do much.”
In our sport, you get the chance to tell
people, “Hey, guess what, you’re wrong!”
Go out and live life on your own terms,
not how other people say you should live.
The second type of pain is physical
pain. If you come into practice going,
“Man, my shoulder is always hurting,” the
best thing you can do is talk to a group of
guys in wheelchairs. Inevitably someone
will say, “Oh yeah I’ve had that. This is
what you do for it.”
We’re our own support group.
I need someone to
help me do it.
JG: We all fight hard for the right to do
things on our own, for our independence,
or to be able to represent our country.
When you’re injured, all of a sudden
that ability is taken away from you.
It is important to reach out and say
something, even if it’s as simple as, “I
just need somebody to listen to me.”
Or, “I need help up the stairs.”
On our team we’re really good at calling
someone out if they think they can’t do
something. We will say, “Wait a minute.
The fact that you are here at practice
means you got up this morning and got
dressed for practice. You found yourself
transportation in order to get here.”
The key is having the ability to let go
of your pride and ask for that help. So
many of us don’t want to ask for help.
Travel is a hassle
JG: It is. [Laughs] We’ll go to some
countries and all you see is stairs and
sand. But let me tell you, there’s never
been something that I’ve set my mind on
to do that I haven’t been able to get done.
Even in a foreign country. Even if it’s
just playing charades. If you need to get
up some stairs, you point to them and
signal the fact that Hey, I need your help
getting up these three stairs.
It works every single time.
Listen, life is hard to begin with. It was
hard before when you weren’t disabled.
Once you’re in a wheelchair or have a
disability, that doesn’t mean your life isn’t
going to be as hard as it was before.
But skipping out on these things
because you are afraid of getting hurt
means you could miss meeting the man or
woman of your dreams, or finding the sport
that makes you passionate about life again.
I’m scared (to be
embarrassed, to fail,
to get hurt more).
JG: What’s the worst thing that could
happen? You could end up in a wheelchair?
Living on your terms the way you want
to is so much more empowering than
sitting home in a closet and hoping nothing
happens to you. There might be 100 things
you wanted to do in a day before you were
injured, and you could do 10. Now there
are 100 things you want to do in a day, and
you can do eight or nine. It’s about realizing
that somebody will always be caring about
you and thinking about you, but that only
you can live your life.
It sucks what happened to you. It
totally sucks. But you’ve got another
chance to get up tomorrow and have an
impact on yourself and on others. It’s
about inspiring that person who you tell
your story to, and the chance they will
go and inspire someone else.
You never know: your story may
reach that one person who is sitting
there and, after reading it, says, “Okay,
I’ve got to do this!”
James “Gumbie” Gumbert has played and
coached wheelchair rugby for 20 years.
In 2005, he began as head coach of the U.S.
Paralympics Wheelchair Rugby National Team.
The team is unbeaten since 2006, having won
world titles in 2006 and 2010, and Paralympic
medals in 2008 (gold) and 2012 (bronze). In
2010, Gumbert was a finalist for the Paralympic
Coach of the Year Award presented by the U.S.
“This sport is evolving,” Gumbert says. “In the
future, I look for the sport to eventually make
the crossover into the able-bodied world.”
Gumbert was paralyzed after complications
from a car accident on Christmas night in 1985.
He lives with his wife and 2-year-old twins in
Austin, Texas, where he currently serves as
Commissioner of the United States Quad Rugby
Association, coaches the Texas Stampede
Wheelchair Rugby Team and has his sights
set on U.S. gold at the Rio de Janeiro 2016
“It’s better to offer no
excuse than a bad one.”
Words of Wisdom
Who Is Coach
18 spring 2013 va .gov/adaptivesports
spring 2013va .gov/adaptivesports 19
On an autumn morning in 2009, Bill
McCormick, an Army Veteran who served
in Vietnam, took a walk in the countryside
a few miles from his Vermont home and
came upon a tangled pile of glass, barbed
wire, padlocks and metal heaped against a
worn and faded barn. The image resonated
with him, and he took a picture.
McCormick titled the photograph
“Looking Into a PTSD Mind” because
each item in it “represented the jumble
that exists inside my mind,” he says.
McCormick’s experiences in Vietnam led
to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),
fear of crowds and night terrors. When he
returned home from war in 1970, he had
a hard time determining what direction
his life should take. In 1973 he enrolled in
an art school in Ontario, Canada, and since
then has used photography as an outlet
to express his pain.
McCormick entered “Looking Into
a PTSD Mind” in the annual National
Veterans Creative Arts Competition at
his local VA. The photograph won Best of
Show and earned McCormick an invitation
to the 2012 National Veterans Creative
Arts Competition in Boston, where he
joined other gold medal-winning Veterans
from around the country.
McCormick says the competitions
have helped him because he felt a strong
connection to other Veterans who have
experienced trauma in combat. “It helps
to know that they’ve been through
something similar to what I’ve been
through and can relate,” he says
VA medical facilities use the creative
arts as a form of rehabilitative treatment
to help Veterans like McCormick to recover
and cope with physical and emotional
disabilities. The competition includes
53 categories in the visual arts division
this year that range from oil painting to
leatherwork, as well as 120 categories in
the performing arts pertaining to music,
dance, drama and creative writing.
Selected medal winners are invited to
attend the National Veterans Creative
Arts Festival each year.
To connect with participants and
view photos of the 2012 events visit
the Facebook page at http://on.fb.me/
Creative Arts Festival
“Looking Into a PTSD Mind”: McCormick’s
Festival Newsletter: Download
VA Adaptive Sports programs bring together Veterans
of all ages and abilities for fun and bragging rights
Makelyia Sheppard puts on his game
face and sizes up his competition in
the 10K handcycling race at the 32nd
National Veterans Wheelchair Games. As
a first-timer, Sheppard competes in the
novice division. An Air Force Veteran, the
Colorado native has been wheelchair-
bound since 2011, when he suffered a
severe spinal cord injury in a car crash.
On this day, Sheppard and more than 500
other athletes are gathered to compete in
the National Veterans Wheelchair Games,
the largest annual wheelchair sports
competition in the world.
The Games are a test of stamina,
strength and endurance, with hundreds
of Veterans competing in 18 sports each
year. But for Sheppard, the Games are
more than a competition. Following his
crash, Sheppard spent two months in a
rehabilitation facility. When he finished
rehab he locked himself inside his house
as he struggled to come to grips with being
paralyzed from the waist down. He says
the Games gave him the kick he needed to
get out of his house and regain his life.
Sheppard was introduced to
handcycling by a Veterans Affairs
physical therapist. After that, the sport
became a part of his daily life, and
he shifted his focus to train for the
National Veterans Wheelchair Games.
As he trained, he says, he began to
shed the sense of isolation that had
controlled his life after his injury.
Sheppard crosses the finish line of
the 10K race finish line in less than
24 minutes, winning the gold medal
in the novice division. As people rush
to congratulate him, he is once again
part of a community that supports and
heals its members.
Preparations are in full swing for
the 33rd National Veterans Wheelchair
Games in June 2013. To learn more
about the Wheelchair Games and how
to participate or volunteer, visit
20 spring 2013
“When they first come
in, they’re wondering
what is going on and
what’s going to happen
to them. I always tell
them, ‘Welcome to the
life. It’s a different life,
but it’s one worth living.’
You’ll see their smile get
bigger and you see them
getting more confident.
It makes me feel like I
have a real purpose.”
latest result: Competed at 2012
National Wheelchair Basketball
Association National Tournament.
next up: Lighting up the court with
the Wisconsin Thunder basketball
team and mentoring Veterans in
the spinal cord injury unit at the VA
hospital in Milwaukee.
Air guns, archery, basketball, bowling,
field events, handcycling, nine-ball,
power soccer, wheelchair rugby, slalom,
softball, swimming, table tennis, track,
Road test: Handcycling is one of 18 events at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games.
Four max: Golden Age
Games athletes may
compete in no more than
four events. Two minimum.
spring 2013 21
an affiliate of the U.S. Olympic Committee.
Field was so successful in the Golden Age
Games that he went on to compete against
other elite senior athletes five times in the
National Senior Games.
Field has gained national recognition
for his achievements in the Games. At the
2012 Golden Age Games held in St. Louis,
Field received the Most Inspirational
Athlete Award. Field’s wife, Marie,
says she believes Field’s passion for
swimming is the reason he still has both
legs. “Whomever I beat, it’s probably not
because I’m better than him. It’s because
I practice more,” Field says.
To watch videos of Field and other
Veterans competing in the Golden
Age Games visit the Veterans Affairs
YouTube channel and search “Golden
Age Games” http://bit.ly/TxPy0o.
Thirty-one years ago, Wayne Field, a
Civil Air Patrol squadron commander,
was knocked unconscious when he and
his platoon were taking a Nazi village.
That was the last time he ever felt his
legs. Field awoke in the hospital with
peripheral neuropathy, a disease of the
nerves that causes muscle impairment
that prevents sensation in the limbs.
He was awarded the Purple Heart
for his service, but the fighting spirit
that kept him alive through World
War II did not idle once he arrived
home. Though disabled, Field found
a new way to represent his country:
Today, Field, 86, has won more than
200 medals. He races every year in
national competitions including the
National Veterans Golden Age Games,
which is the world’s largest sport and
recreation competition for Veterans age
55 and older. The Games also serve as a
qualifier for the National Senior Games,
Golden Age Games
Air rifle, billiards, bowling,
croquet, checkers, cycling,
golf, horseshoes, javelin,
shot put, discus, swimming,
sled hockey, table tennis
“I enjoy the training,
It starts my day on a
U.S. Army AIR CORPS, WWII Veteran
Latest result: Took first place
in the 50-yard backstroke at the
2012 Golden Age Games. Finish
time (1:04:65) was more than seven
seconds faster than in 2011.
NEXT UP: Swimming five days
weekly and doing water aerobics.
At 2013 Golden Age Games, plans to
compete in swimming, the half mile
cycling event and air rifles.
Age 55+: Golden Age Games athletes
compete in seven age classifications.
Nice shot: A Veteran in action at the 26th
National Veterans Golden Age Games.
22 spring 2013 va .gov/adaptivesports
National Veterans TEE Tournament
co-founder Eldon Miller, 56, grew up
on a farm in Kalona, Iowa, and always
loved the outdoors. In 1974 Miller was
blinded by an explosion while serving in
the Army in Vietnam. When he returned
home and for years after, he searched for
ways to stay active.
In 1987, Miller learned about the
National Disabled Veterans Winter
Sports Clinic, which is held every year
in Colorado for disabled Veterans. After
Bag toss, Bowling, GOlf,
Iowa city, iOWA
attending the clinic, he was inspired to
start a local tournament, also based on
principles of recreational therapy for
The first TEE (Training, Exposure
and Experience) Tournament was held
in June 1994 at the Great River Bend
Golf Course in Nauvoo, Ill. Thirty-six
legally blind Veterans participated in
the five-day program.
The tournament has since grown
into a national program with nearly 200
participating Veterans, annually. Today
the tournament is open to Veterans
with all types of disabilities, from
amputated limbs to spinal cord injuries.
For Miller, the TEE Tournament
represents his ability to overcome his
blindness and depression and create a
better world for Veterans. With the help
of a guide who lines him up directly with
each hole and verbally directs his swing,
Miller has a handicap of 17 and scores 50
to 55 through nine holes. “Just because you
can’t see doesn’t mean you can’t have fun,”
Miller says. “Sight isn’t everything.”
Check out pictures of Miller and other
Veterans at the TEE Tournament on the
VA Flickr page at http://bit.ly/10ReunV.
To search for VA facilities, golf
courses, adaptive golf programs and
community-based organizations near
you, visit the VA Adaptive Sports website
22 spring 2013
“Competing as a power
lifter raises my self
esteem and confidence
so I can take on other
challenges which I
believed were too
difficult. It has made
a big difference in my
spiritual and family
experiences for the
betterment of my life.”
latest result: At the 2012
International Blind Sports Association
World Benchpress and Powerlifting
Championships, set world records
in benchpress (281 lbs), deadlift (407
lbs), and squat (264 lbs).
next up: Training five hours per
week. Compete in two or three
events per year as a member of the
powerlifting team for the United
States Association of Blind Athletes.
Master stroke: Eldon Miller (Army Ret.) cofounded
the National Veterans TEE Tournament in 1994.
American Lake Veterans
Features: covered driving range, large
tee boxes, handicapped accessible
bunkers and greens, specialized golf
carts for mobility-impaired golfers.
Free rounds for hospitalized Veterans.
Reduced green fee ($12) for Veterans
Los Angeles, Calif.
Features: Nine-hole, par-three
course. $3 green fee for Veteran
Northport Golf Course
Features: Nine-hole course. $15
weekend green fee for Veterans
The National Amputee
developed First Swing
Clinics to teach adaptive
golf to people with
More than 30 clinics
are offered annually.
index.shtml for more
On October 23, 1983, a terrorist drove a
truck full of explosives into the Marine
barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, killing 241
U.S. Marines, Sailors and Soldiers. Phillip
Fusco, a Marine Corps Veteran from Joliet,
Ill., survived the attack but suffered a
traumatic brain injury, a wound that
would cause lifelong memory loss, anxiety,
nightmares and panic attacks.
Nearly 20 years later, while visiting
the Edward Hines Jr. VA Hospital in Hines,
Ill., to pick up allergy medication, Fusco
described his symptoms to a group of
Veterans. Immediately they pointed him to
the post-traumatic stress disorder clinic.
Fusco’s wife, Rhonda, spent the
next few years searching for a way to
revive her husband from his depressive
behavior. In 2010, she discovered the
VA’s National Veterans Summer Sports
Clinic, a week-long adaptive sport camp
Summer Sports Clinic
Archery, climbing, cycling,
kayaking, sailing, surfing,
track & field
San diego, CALIF.
Volunteers are essential
to VA special events.
To volunteer for the Creative Arts Festival, Wheelchair Games,
Golden Age Games, TEE Tournament, Summer Sports Clinic or
a local club visit the VA National Veterans Sports Programs &
Special Events website at www.va.gov/adaptivesports
focused on therapeutic interventions for
Veterans and their families. Fusco was
hesitant, but Rhonda insisted. Fusco,
Rhonda and their sons spent the next
week kayaking, learning track and field
events, and enjoying the outdoors. They
shared stories and advice with Veterans
from across the country. It was the first
time since the accident that they felt like
a family again, Rhonda says.
Since the clinic, Rhonda says she has
noticed a change in her husband. She
says he is open to trying new activities
and encourages daily walks with her.
The family bond that was revived at the
clinic continued to strengthen and the
Fusco family began taking kayak trips
together. “Phillip will always struggle
with PTSD and the things he saw, but
the clinic taught our family that we can
still find happiness,” Rhonda says.
The National Veterans Summer Sports
Clinic is structured to bring the best care
and therapy programs available to our
nation’s Veterans and their support teams
to keep Veterans moving forward in a
positive direction of recovery. The clinic
empowers Veterans to heal their minds
and spirits as they challenge themselves
physically and emotionally through
To watch videos of previous Summer
Sports Clinics and other VA special events
on YouTube, visit: http://bit.ly/VwIK3D.
spring 2013 23
All hands: Phillip Fusco (Marines Ret.) and family
at the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic.
“It [Summer Sports
Clinic] was one of the
best experiences I’ve
ever had. Now, I’m all
about getting my own
kayak and bike. I’m
centered about putting
myself in a place where
you can do these things
on a regular basis.”
U.S. AIR FORCE
latest result: 2012 Summer
Sports Clinic participant moved
to the beach for good weather and
access to swimming, hiking, biking,
surfing, sailing and kayaking.
next up: More activity with
service dog (to help trim him
down). Exploring—and possibly
organizing—local groups that
connect other Veterans and
members of the community.
24 spring 2013 va .gov/adaptivesports
Made with 21st Century alpine ski
technology and aircraft-quality
aluminum, the current fleet of sit-
skis offer rides gentle enough for
first timers and thrilling enough
for lifelong daredevils.
Made of polypropylene,
snaps into place on seat
and footrest for warmth
Controlled by hand,
providing extra balance
and steering ability.
The outriggers can be
flipped up for a race
course or removed.
Made of kevlar,
carbon fiber with
back, neck and side
support for all-over
security and comfort. safety system
Includes a seat
belt, an evacuation
harness that fastens
to a rescue vehicle,
and a strap to hold
the rider’s body to
the chair while
riding up the lift.
Makes turning cleaner
With a fiberglass top plate
for extra reinforcement
for the ski mounting area.
Ensures skis stay secured
crud and other terrain
more protection for
the skier’s body by
controlling the up-
of the ski.
Raises sit ski height
while loading onto a
chair-lift. Enables skier
to get on lifts easier.
Ensures a low roll-
center for better
stability and less
chance of spills
while racing down
Photo courtesy of Enabling Technologies. VA’s usage of the photo does not constitute an endorsement.
spring 2013va .gov /adaptivesports 25
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Congratulations on pushing yourself along your own Mission ReDefined
Salutes All Veterans
participating in our
2013 Sports Programs
and Special Events