It started as a dream. But in the 25 years since I organized the first National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, I’ve seen countless Veterans transformed by the hope, courage and strength they’ve gained through the simple act of skiing. In fact, it happens so frequently at the Clinic that we came up with a motto to describe the experience–“Miracles on a Mountainside.”
As we kick off the 25th annual Clinic this week in Snowmass, Colorado, I wanted to share a letter with VAntage Point readers that I received two years ago from Ms. Valerie Wallace. Ms. Wallace is the mother of Sgt. John Barnes, an Operation Iraqi Freedom Veteran who attended the Clinic for the first time in 2009. Her letter gives me hope that the dream is alive and that miracles on a mountainside is more than a motto.
John was injured March 14, 2006, in Iraq. He was 6 months into his 2nd tour. He sustained a severe TBI [Traumatic Brain Injury] when he was hit by mortar shrapnel. He also has left sided hemi paresis, seizures, cognitive impairments, PTSD and emotional problems. The last 2 years have been especially challenging for John.
“He became very abusive and self-destructive and there have been a couple suicide attempts. It has been daunting trying to find the appropriate and adequate help for him. It is hard to help someone who doesn’t want to be helped because they don’t think they have a problem.
“I have tried for 3 years to convince John to come to this event [the Winter Sports Clinic] but he always refused because he would rather closet himself away and suffer in silence. Finally this year he agreed. When we arrived Saturday and his luggage was nowhere to be found, John was convinced that this was going to be a horrible week and we should just go home. Then by Sunday afternoon the altitude was affecting him greatly and he felt miserable, he was irritable, negative and again wanted to just go home. He was making comments that he would never come back here.
“All that changed by Monday afternoon. John went snowboarding Monday morning. When he left the snow he was excited, happy and exhilarated. He was excitedly telling everyone who would listen how he was going to ‘tear it up Wednesday.’
“This morning when John awoke, he said he ‘felt like a million bucks.’ Before breakfast he was telling me about when he comes back next year. Thank you Sandy [Trombetta] for all you’ve done and are doing. You’ve given my son something no one else has figured out how to do to date. Anticipation for the future.”