By Shaun Castle, U.S. Army Veteran
Tuesday, January 26, 2016
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 — but I am truly grateful that it did. 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.
“Take that first step and do as I did, sign up for the Games.”
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, and 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. And 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.
Registration Closes April 15, 2016
Registration for the 2016 National Veterans Wheelchair Games closes April 15, 2016.
Each year, hundreds of disabled Veterans travel from around the country to compete in the Games, the largest annual wheelchair sports event in the world. With them, they bring the fighting spirit and tenacity that define the Veterans of our Armed Forces.
The National Veterans Wheelchair Games is a sports and rehabilitation event for military service Veterans who use wheelchairs due to spinal cord injuries, amputations or certain neurological problems.
Competitive events at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games include air guns, archery, basketball, bowling, field events, handcycling, a motorized wheelchair rally, nine-ball, power soccer, quad rugby, slalom, softball, swimming, table tennis, track, trapshooting and weightlifting. Athletes compete in all events against others with similar athletic ability, competitive experience and age.
The National Veterans Wheelchair Games will be held in Salt Lake City from June 27-July 2, 2016. The Games are proudly co-presented by the VA and Paralyzed Veterans, partners in this annual event since 1985. For more information, please visit wheelchairgames.org.