This June, in Salt Lake City, more than 500 wheelchair athletes—all military Veterans, will compete in the 36th National Veterans Wheelchair Games. I will be one of them, will you?
When I competed in my first National Veterans Wheelchair Games three years ago, I had no idea that it was going to lead me to the life I have today—a life I am truly grateful for. It was taking that first step to sign up and compete in my first National Veterans Wheelchair Games in 2013 that gave me the initial spark which lit a fire under me to become what I am today—a collegiate and professional wheelchair athlete.
From the moment I returned from the Games, I had a new-found outlook on my life and what I wanted to be—who I wanted to be. I was so motivated after my experience at that Games that I then spent six days a week, up to five hours a day training to be a wheelchair athlete.
There are so many people like myself who come out of the military injured, with a spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, PTSD, amputated limbs and are looking for something to grab a hold of, something to strive for, something to be a part of—a brotherhood that we lost when we left the military. And it’s the National Veterans Wheelchair Games where many people find that again, find that reason to live, and know that anything is possible.
I can say without a doubt that for me it was the National Veterans Wheelchair Games and adaptive sports that gave that back to me, gave me that want, that drive again, to get back into life and to be back as part of something.
The hardest thing to do after you get injured is wake up the next morning and realize that your life is completely changed, and ask yourself what do I do now? Well, I encourage you to take that first step and do as I did, sign up for the Games, talk to a recreational therapist at your VA hospital about it, talk to other Veterans who have participated in the Games. Then, prepare yourself physically and mentally to compete in the Games, because when you get there you will find yourself surrounded by hundreds of Veterans who are just like you.
I promise you it’ll be an experience that will change your life for the better, in one way or another, as it did mine. You just have be there to see it, and experience it for yourself.
Register for the 2016 National Veterans Wheelchair Games now.
Shaun Castle is a U.S. Army Veteran who was paralyzed during a training accident in 2004, while serving as a military policeman stationed in Germany. He has played professional wheelchair basketball in France, and currently plays center, power forward and shooting guard for the University of Alabama’s wheelchair basketball team where he is a student.