After my U.S. Army training accident in July 1994, I had six months of rehabilitation as a paraplegic at the Seattle VA on the Spinal Cord Injury Unit. The rehab was top-notch, and I learned many ways to navigate my new world from a wheelchair.
Once I was home, I didn’t really know the direction I was going to go in life. I was an Airborne Infantry 2nd Lieutenant, and now I was a disabled veteran. I would sleep a lot during the day and watch TV at night. Little did I know the cycle was going to burst soon.
My dad and the Spokane VA Chief of Prosthetics decided I needed to attend the 1995 National Veterans Winter Sports Clinic in Crested Butte, Colorado. I found out about their plan to get me skiing again over the phone from the current Chief of Prosthetics at the time, Guy Lounsbury. I stated that I did not care to try skiing sitting down. He told me, “Tough, your tickets are in the mail, and you’re going.” The old Vietnam Marine convinced me with his gruff and blunt words. It was the tough love I needed at the time!
The date came to fly to Colorado, and it was the second-best thing that could have happened to me at the time. Just before leaving to ski, I ran into a girl I knew from college, and little did I know that she would become my future wife. The skiing gave me my self-confidence back and pulled me out of my pity party. I was among 200 other disabled veterans who were smiling and having fun. Veterans have a special bond, and we make a good time out of any venue!
The goal of a lot of adaptive ski clinics and camps is to introduce disabled veterans to the gear and how to use it. Once you are done with these events, there are many ways to obtain gear with the goal of being an independent adaptive skier. As veterans, adaptive gear can be provided if you qualify, and you will be shown how to use the gear.
I have now been monoskiing for over 20 years since that 1995 National Veterans Winter Sports Clinic. I have only missed a few seasons because of health issues. My 17-year-old twins hit the local ski hills with me now, and we can get my wife to go once in awhile, too. This is a life sport that can put you on a level playing field with your family and friends.
If you are interested in adaptive skiing, I can point you in the right direction through contacts at the VA to see if you qualify. Brent King at 509-939-4878, Bkinghomes@gmail.com.