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U.S. Army veteran Jessica Greene receives some rowing lessons during the 2015 National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic. Photo by Christopher DiVirgilio for

America's Finest

Online Exclusive posted Monday, October 5, 2015 - 10:38am

America's finest city was recently host to some of America's finest during week long sports and recreation events

Jessica Greene was just a few weeks away from earning the rank of U.S. Army second lieutenant. The ROTC cadet was on temporary additional duty (TAD) with the 82nd Air Borne as part of cadet troop leader training (CTLT) when the unthinkable happened.

Greene volunteered to act as designated driver one evening when she mistook an unmarked portion of the roadway that ultimately lead her vehicle over an embankment. The resulting injuries left her a C-7 incomplete quadriplegic and a promising Army career was suddenly cut short.

Like many injured veterans, Greene was introduced to the prospect of giving accessible sports a try. One program that stood out to her was the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic (NVSSC).

Greene recently joined her fellow veterans in San Diego for the weeklong clinic designed to introduce injured veterans to the world of accessible sports and recreation. For many of the veterans, it was 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 set up, 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 just one of more than 160 other veterans from across the country who traveled to San Diego for this year’s NVSSC.

U.S. Army veteran Jason Speights, center, poses with his coaches and volunteers after the surfing event at the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic. Photo by Christopher DiVirgilio for

U.S. Army veteran Shirley Bullock traveled from Washington, D.C and was enjoying a steady pace at handcycling as well as her first summer sports clinic.

U.S. Navy veteran Robert Fredrickson was the clinic’s only World War II veteran and his first summer sports clinic. While Fredrickson does not live with a spinal-cord injury, he does struggle with mobility and found the sports clinic a refreshing change to his daily routine. Accompanied by his daughter, the North Carolina resident had no trouble keeping pace with the younger veterans, taking part in sports like archery, rowing and cycling.

Jason Speights and Eric Hines, both U.S. Army veterans and both from Florida never dreamed they’d be surfing the beaches of California after their injuries, but were soon looking like pros by days end and eager to return for next year’s clinic.

The NVSSC continues to offer adventure sports and recreational activities for injured and disabled veterans, complimenting the therapy provided in daily rehabilitation. The clinics are just a glimpse of what awaits those veterans who accept the challenge to not only strengthen their bodies, but also overcome and improve their overall being and self-worth.

America’s finest city, as it’s best known, was not only host to the NVSSC, but to two other veteran sports and recreation events, all taking place at various locations throughout southern Calif.

Challenged Sailors

Across town just off the Coronado Bay, a small group of veterans was learning the finer points of sailing with the help of The Challenged Sailors – San Diego and the Cal-Diego chapter of the PVA. While Challenged Sailors has been around for some time, the joint program has been in the making since the 69th Annual Paralyzed Veterans of America annual board of directors meeting earlier in the year.

A handful of executive board members had the opportunity to go out on the water and experience sailing first-hand.

PVA’s sports and recreation program 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.”

For U.S. Army veteran RJ Anderson, sailing is the perfect sport to help harness his skills and help return his sense of control and inclusion. “I started sailing about 2 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.”

Air Rifle

Approximately 50 miles north of San Diego, the Cal-Diego PVA chapter was helping another group of veterans test their marksmanship skills at an air rifle and air pistol shoot at the Marine Corps Base, Camp Pendleton.   

The clinic, a supplement to the PVA’s Air Rifle/Air Pistol Circuit, was intended to help shooters practice for the 2nd Annual Rifle and Pistol shoot that took place later in the week at the Wounded Warrior Hope and Care Center.

Seventeen shooters from various branches of the military snapped in, hoping to improve their aim and earn championship bragging rights and a trophy, including PVA’s president Al Kovack Jr., a U.S. Navy SEAL veteran himself.

U.S Army veteran RJ Anderson proved his skills were not limited to sailing by taking the top slot of the air rifle prone competition followed closely behind by U.S. Marine veteran Marco Delarosa.

To see more photos visit the gallery.


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