April 3, 2006

Wounded Vets Hit the Slopes

Hatched by Sachi

Because of advanced medical technology and superb evacuation techniques, many soldiers who would have died of their wounds in earlier eras now survive. That is one reason we have so few deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan: we're sending more wounded solders home alive.

The downside is that there are now many more veterans with serious, life-changing injuries, soldiers who face a difficult adjustment back to society. I've been wondering how we're taking care of these brave souls who sacrificed so much for our freedom.

It's wonderful to learn about a program like this:

Amputees being treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center wrapped up the third annual Vail Veterans Program here yesterday, having taken another step ahead in their rehabilitation and more convinced than ever that they have the support of the American people.

The 24 veterans, who lost limbs in Iraq and Afghanistan, spent three days here at this world-class ski resort, courtesy of Vail Mountain and the Vail community. While enjoying the red-carpet treatment with free lodging, meals, ski gear, lift tickets and lessons, they skied and snowboarded their way to new emotional and physical milestones.

Such training not only helps the veteran’s physical recovery, it helps his psychological recovery and improves his morale:

Army Lt. Col. Barbara Springer, chief of Walter Reed's physical therapy service, said it's exciting to watch the transformation that takes place on the slopes. "I've seen a lot of people turn the corner," she said. "By the end of the first day, you could see the big smiles... [and] the sense of accomplishment on their faces."

That accomplishment will have a long-term effect on the wounded servicemembers' recovery, she said. "Once they build up their confidence to the point where they can face a challenge and meet that challenge, then they feel like they can do anything after that," Springer said.

Lets give a round of applause to the program organizers, and to the ski-resort employees of Vail, who went out of their way to make wounded vets feel welcome.

Hatched by Sachi on this day, April 3, 2006, at the time of 9:52 PM

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