Friday, June 20, 2008

Disabled vets make a splash in sports program

Joe Garcia

Thirteen recently disabled Iraqi and Afghanistan War veterans hit the waters of Stillwater Lake in Pleasant Grove, Calif., this week in a sports program that shows them many adaptive sports such as golf, water skiing, white-water rafting, cycling and wheelchair softball.

"The purpose of this is to show these people what they're capable of," Matt Strugar-Fritsch of Disabled Sports USA Far West told Sacramento's ABC News 10. "A lot of times when you sustain a disability, particularly when you're newly injured, you think your life is over. It's really hard to think of what you can do when somebody's just told you everything you can't do."

Army National Guard Specialist Joe Garcia lost his right leg and shattered his left leg last year in Afghanistan when the Humvee in which he served as a gunner ran over an IED.

He said the injury was difficult for him to accept initially, but then he realized how many other soldiers had even worse injuries.

"So I started to say to myself I'm not going to cry about it or whine about it. I'm just going to do what I can do to make the best, to move on," Garcia said. "That's kind of why I'm doing this (program), too."

Garcia said he was a bit nervous about getting into the water for skiing; he'd never tried water skiing before. "You have to get over some fears," he said.

Disabled Sports USA says the disabled vets gain the self confidence by mastering such skills and that will help them face the challenges of daily life.