Getting Sporty in San Diego

Reprinted from PN/Paraplegia News December 2015

San Diego was indeed "America's Finest City" when it came to housing several sporting events for injured and disabled veterans and military members in September

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Jessica Greene was just a few weeks away from becoming a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army. The Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) cadet was on temporary additional duty with the 82nd Air Borne as part of cadet troop leader training when the unthinkable happened. Greene volunteered to act as the designated driver one evening when she mistook an unmarked portion of the roadway and her vehicle ended up going over an embankment. She sustained a C-7 incomplete quadriplegic injury and a promising Army career was suddenly cut short.
Like many injured veterans, Greene was introduced to the prospect of giving accessible sports and recreation a try. One program that stood out to her was the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic (NVSSC).

Getting In Gear

Greene joined fellow veterans in San Diego for September’s weeklong NVSSC designed to introduce injured veterans to the world of accessible sports and recreation. For many of the veterans, it’s their first time exploring activities they thought they’d never be able to enjoy. For Greene, this was her second time out.
“I managed to bond with my fellow trainees and active duty personal during my short time in the military, and events like the NVSSC is where I quench my thirst for that familiar camaraderie,” says Greene. “Handcycling was better than I expected because I had a really good setup, the weather was awesome and I was very comfortable in my cycle. I even managed to complete more of the course than last year.”
Greene was only one of more than 160 other veterans from across the country who traveled to San Diego for this year’s NVSSC. Among the other veterans at this year’s event in San Diego was fellow handcyclist and U.S. Army veteran Shirley Bullock. Riding at a steady pace while handcycling, Bullock traveled from Washington, D.C., to take part in her first Clinic.
Also attending the NVSSC for the first time was U.S. Navy veteran Robert Fredrickson, the clinic’s only World War II vet. Although Fredrickson doesn’t have a spinal-cord injury, he struggles with mobility issues and found the sports clinic a refreshing change to his daily routine. The North Carolina resident had no trouble keeping pace with the younger veterans during activities such as archery and cycling.
Action at this year’s NVSSC wasn’t only on land either. Jason Speights and Eric Hines, both U.S. Army veterans from Florida, never dreamnt they’d be surfing after their injuries. However, after some time learning the basics, they were looking like naturals on beautiful La Jolla Beach in La Jolla, Calif., and were eager to return for next year’s clinic.

PVA Sports Director Ernie Butler, in red, learns the ropes of sailing on San Diego Bay during a September sailing clinic in San Diego. Photo Christopher DiVirgilio
The enthusiasm Speights and Hines have to try surfing again is exactly what organizers like to hear. The Clinic is designed to introduce injured veterans and service members to the sports and recreation opportunities that are available to them. These are activities that not only strengthen their bodies, but also improve their overall being and self-worth.
For more information, visit 
Summer Sports Clinic.

Setting Sail

Water activities for vets in the San Diego area the week of Sept. 13–18 weren’t only at the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic. Across town on San Diego Bay, a small group of veterans learned the finer points of sailing with the help of Challenged Sailors–San Diego and the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) Cal-Diego Chapter. While Challenged Sailors has been around for some time, the joint program has been in the making since May’s 69th Annual PVA National Convention in 
San Diego.
PVA Sports Director Ernie Butler has been working with Maria Arroyo of Challenged Sailors to help build a program beneficial to veterans of all abilities.
“We’ve [PVA] since sponsored two of the boats and now have the PVA logo proudly displayed on two of the sails,” says Butler. “It’s a perfect match for PVA Cal-Diego Chapter to partner with and host a disabled sailing program for challenged athletes through the Challenged Sailors organization.”
A handful of PVA Executive Board members and plenty of veterans were on hand to experience accessible sailing firsthand. U.S. Army veteran Roosevelt Anderson Jr., says sailing is the perfect sport to help harness his skills and return his sense of control and inclusion.
“I started sailing about two years ago and have been addicted to it ever since,” says Anderson. “I enjoy sailing because it requires you to adapt on the go … it tests your abilities to overcome nature.”

For more information, visit Challenged Sailors - San Diego

Taking Aim

Anderson proved his skills weren’t limited to sailing during yet another Cal-Diego Chapter event located further up the Southern California coast from San Diego. Roughly 50 miles north of San Diego at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Anderson was among more than a dozen veterans who participated in the 2nd Annual Camp Pendleton Air Rifle/Pistol Tournament. The event began with a clinic to help participants practice and refine their marksmanship skills.
The tournament itself included 17 shooters from various branches of the military, including PVA National President and Navy SEAL veteran Al Kovach Jr., looking to earn championship bragging rights and a trophy.
A member of the PVA Vaughn Chapter in the Chicago area, Anderson took the top spot in the Rifle SH1 category with a combined score of 389.7 points. Ernesto Aquino posted the best score in Rifle SH2 with an impressive mark of 418.4 and it was a tight finish in 
Pistol SH1 as Andrew Joyce edged out Marco Delarosa by just a tenth of a point, 187.5 to 187.4.
For more information on PVA shooting sports, 
visit Paralyzed Veterans of America


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