Did you get to watch any of the Paralympic Winter Games broadcast from Sochi, Russia? What an incredible event it was. From the heartbreak of defeat to the thrill of victory, the games had it all! As a member of the U.S. Alpine Ski Team, I was honored to be one of the 18 U.S. Servicemembers competing in the games. On top of that incredible honor, I was selected as the flag bearer for the opening ceremony – one of the proudest moments of my professional sports career.
That’s all pretty cool, but here’s what I really want you to know: I started skiing again, thanks to the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic. Co-sponsored by VA and Disabled American Veterans (DAV), this clinic is the world leader in adaptive winter sports instruction for U.S. military Veterans and active-duty Servicemembers with disabilities. Each year in beautiful Snowmass, Colo., the clinic serves about 400 Veterans who have traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, orthopedic amputations, visual impairments, certain neurological conditions and other disabilities.
Last year, I attended as a mentor and developed a strong sense of loyalty in response to this life-changing event.
One of the highlights for me has been skiing with Veterans. For some, it’s their first clinic, while others have attended several. I remember the first day of my first clinic, when I was apprehensive about talking to anyone; but I also recall the last day, when I was talking to everyone. Serving as a mentor gives me the chance to break the ice and to immediately engage Veterans.
To any disabled Veteran out there: If you have never attended this event, I highly recommend it. Check out all of VA’s adaptive sports programs at www.va.gov/adaptivesports. Use these events as a springboard to staying active throughout the year!
I plan to be able to give back to these events for many years to come, and I hope to see you out there.
Jon is a member of the U.S. Paralympics Alpine Ski Team and current Paralympic Alpine Downhill National Champion. At the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, he was selected as the flag bearer for the opening ceremony. A former Marine, Jon was injured while serving in Iraq. When he is not skiing, Jon spends his time advocating for Veterans and adaptive sports. Follow Jon on Twitter at @JonnyVolcano44, or Facebook: Jon Lujan Adaptive Alpine Skier.