Two dozen volunteers with the San Diego Veterans Affairs Regional Office, part of the Veterans Benefits Administration, supported the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, California, Sept. 18-23. The summer sports clinic hosted an array of adaptive sports and recreational activities including kayaking, cycling, sailing, archery, rowing and surfing for injured Veterans. The yearly clinic strives to create a safe environment where Veterans with disabilities may participate in a week of adventure sports and recreational activities, physically challenging themselves and demonstrating that disabilities are not a bar to an active and fruitful life. Participants from around the country formed teams and adopted classical mythological names to evoke a sense of wonder and inspire extraordinary accomplishments.
On the final day of activities, two teams, Calypso and Neptune, participated in individual and team rowing at the training center near San Diego. Throughout the sunny morning, the teams met each other in friendly competition on eight-person rowing barges, demonstrating coordination, rhythm and teamwork. Individual participants also practiced the challenge of single-person racing shells on Lower Otay Lake. After lunch, volunteers from around the country taught participants the fundamentals of archery at the Easton Archery Center of Excellence.
Matthew Cole, a 20-year retired Veteran of the Marine Corps, Air Force and Army—who served in the fields of communications, weapon systems and transportation, first as an enlisted Servicemember and later as a commissioned officer—was one of many participants in the sports clinic. For Cole, trying many of the activities for the first time didn’t take away from enjoying the clinic.
“Every event has been great. I like the attitude, I like the enthusiasm, and I like learning new sports and trying new activities,” he said.
Cole found the sports clinic wasn’t just about trying new sports; it was also about accomplishing things previously thought to be unreachable.
“It lets me know there are a lot more options for me, it gives me a lot more hope,” said Cole. “Like your life’s not over.”
The sense of teamwork, camaraderie and healthy competition among teams was palpable on the docks and at the indoor archery range. It was apparent the bonds between the participants had taken hold in their short week together as team chants echoed on the water and in the range, “Team Calypso! Team Neptune!”
With his final words that day, Cole wanted to make it known to the VA employees that Veterans appreciate their service to them, and that they “make a big difference.”
Volunteers from the regional office supported all of the activities by coordinating venues, providing direct support to the athlete participants, and sharing in the belief that, yes, it’s about the individual and the team, but ultimately, it’s about hope.
About the author: Alejandro Mendiolaflores, Public Affairs Officer/Management Analyst, San Diego RO