The 2nd National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic and the National Veterans TEE Tournament take participants from merely observing to actively participating—and enjoying!
In late September 2009, 62 military veterans from around the nation traveled to San Diego to participate in the 2nd National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic. While there, they learned to surf at La Jolla shores, use a handcycle, sail the San Diego Harbor, kayak in Mission Bay, and experience track and field events at the Chula Vista Olympic Training Center. The veterans were put into one of ten teams, and enjoyed the experience as a physical rehabilitation effort as well as a confidence booster.
Sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the event is specifically designed for veterans with new injuries. Thirty-four of the participants served in Operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom, or both. Twelve of this year’s competitors used wheelchairs for mobility all or some of the time.
Fun in the Sun
Two of the wheelchair users enjoying the sun and surf were Anthony Radetic, a 30-year-old U.S. Army Blackhawk helicopter pilot from Ozark, Ala., and Benjamin Brown, a 27-year-old Navy veteran from Lexington, Ky.
Due to paralyzing injuries from a 2004 motorcycle accident, Radetic was medically retired in 2006 after serving for eight years. Prior to becoming a helicopter pilot, he was a parachute rigger and also served in Special Forces. He heard about the Summer Sports Clinic at the National Veterans Wheelchair Games (NVWG) earlier this year. He credits his recreation therapist from the James A. Haley
VA Medical Center in Tampa with getting him involved with VA’s national events and adaptive sports. His next adventure is to ski at the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic next year.
Radetic enjoys riding personal watercraft (“the closest thing to riding a motorcycle”); his hobby is building them. In 2005, he and his wife Danielle built a home on Lake Eufaula, Ala., with Radetic overseeing the entire construction. He also likes handcycling, an activity the young couple can do as a family. After seeing a Segway at NVWG, Radetic purchased one on his own and has adapted it. He is determined to stay fit and healthy.
The Radetics have a daughter, Ana, 3. Three months ago, the couple opened their own business, ARAD Inc., a distribution agent of military supplies.
U.S. Navy veteran Ben Brown sails the waters off San Diego.
The Best Thing You Can Do!
Brown attended the Summer Sports Clinic for the second year. He was pictured on the event’s poster and other promotional materials as he surfed the Pacific at last year’s event.
Brown served in the U.S. Navy from 2000 to 2003, working as a crypto tech involved with secure message tracking. He sustained paraplegia in a motorcycle accident while on active duty. Brown also heard about the Summer Sports Clinic from a recreation therapist, while undergoing rehab at the St. Louis VA Medical Center.
“It was an awesome experience last year,” Brown says. “It was the first time I had ever been exposed to any kind of adaptive recreation program, and it was a catalyst for me to get more involved in these kinds of activities.”
Especially taken with kayaking, Brown took up the sport after returning home. Now, he is an active member of the Lexington chapter of Team River Runner, a kayaking organization for boaters with disabilities.
“The Summer Sports Clinic is good for the mind as well as the body,” Brown says. “It’s very rewarding, mentally and physically. I encourage other veterans to come out to San Diego and experience this. It’s the best thing they could do. It allows you to make that transition from being an observer to being a participant.”
Brown has been married to Tiffany for three years.
Training, Exposure, Experience
More than 130 U.S. military veterans traveled to Iowa to take part in VA’s newest rehabilitative event, the National Veterans TEE Tournament, held in Iowa City on September 7–10. This is a golf and bowling program created for veterans who are legally blind or have other visual impairments; use wheelchairs; or have amputations, neurological conditions, or other disabilities.
TEE stands for Training, Exposure, and Experience, and the annual program provides veterans an opportunity to participate in a therapeutic golfing event as well as learn other sports activities to develop new skills and strengthen their self-esteem.
U.S. Air Force veteran Jeanne Goldy-Sanitate of Medford, N.J., made the trip with a desire and a determination to learn the sport she has, until now, only been able to watch—from a distance— her husband play.
“Living with multiple sclerosis, I never thought I would be able to get out on a golf course and swing a club,” says Goldy-Sanitate. “Learning how to golf using adaptive equipment allows me to share something that means so much to my husband.”
An avid runner and tennis player, Goldy-Sanitate was diagnosed a paraplegic in 1984 after sustaining serious injuries from a car crash while on her way to a military training exercise. Told she would never walk again, she defied the odds and did regain the ability to walk six months later—only to receive a multiple sclerosis (MS) diagnosis in 1988.
Now, Goldy-Sanitate uses a motorized scooter for mobility. It is similar to the motorized adaptive cart she was given by tournament organizers to use on the golf course, using a special swing chair that simulates a natural swing. Half the size of a normal cart, it maneuvers easily on the greens.
Jim, Goldy-Sanitate’s husband of 16 years, also made the trip to Iowa to be by his wife’s side and serve as her “golf buddy” for the week. He not only provided support but also shared his knowledge of the game and golfed right alongside Jeanne.
“He’s been with me and has stuck by my side through thick and thin for 16 years,” says Goldy-Sanitate. “To have him with me this week is more than I could have asked for. He even took vacation time when he found out what I was doing!”
When asked what she hoped to accomplish during the week, Goldy-Sanitate said, “I’m just going to grip it and rip it!” This is a perfect quote from a woman people call “Our Lady of Perpetual Motion.” Now that she’s become an avid golf fan, she plans to get her own adaptive cart so she can golf with Jim while the couple is at their second home, in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
The TEE Tournament, now in its 16th year, began in 1994 as a local event for veterans with visual impairments. In 2008, it became one of VA’s six national rehabilitation special events (NVWG, the Summer Sports Clinic, the TEE Tournament, the Creative Arts Festival, the Winter Sports Clinic, and the National Veterans Golden Age Games) and this year opened up to veterans with other disabilities. It is hosted by the Iowa City VA Medical Center each year.
Challenges and Accomplishments
VA’s six national events give veterans who are elderly or have disabilities challenging opportunities to accomplish feats many may believe are no longer available to them. These sports and leisure activities provide unique environments for self-development, camaraderie, and a well-earned sense of accomplishment.
For More Information:
Interested in the next National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic? Contact Sandy Trombetta, clinic director, 970-244-1314 / Santo.Trombetta@va.gov.
Learn all about VA’s National Programs and Special Events at www.specialevents.va.gov.
To get details about the National Veterans TEE Tournament, contact Kirt Sickels, tournament director, 319-339-7104 /Kirt.Sickels@va.gov.