People of PN: Derrick Trentin


U.S. Army veteran Derrick Trentin competes in basketball during the 35th Annual National Veterans Wheelchair Games in Dallas, Texas. Photo Christopher DiVirgilio

U.S. Army veteran continues legacy of military service

It seemed like every year Derrick Trentin went in for his annual physical, doctors told him he should attend the National Veterans Wheelchair Games.

Year after year, from 1986 onward, they’d mention something to the Army veteran and Paralyzed Veterans of America member in passing. But the 49-year-old from Columbus, Wis., usually was working in the summer and couldn’t go. He felt like he didn’t have time.

Then, in 2007, a doctor posed a different question.

“He goes ‘would you like to go to Alaska?’” Trentin says.

Trentin’s immediate response was “yeah!” But then he had to convince Linda, his wife – especially since they would have to take their then-seventh-month old son, Brady. He just kept emphatically reminding her that it was in Alaska.

“We did do that,” says Trentin, a paraplegic after sustaining a T12 injury from a car accident in Wisconsin in 1986, “He was in a stroller. Alaska was great. It gave us a chance to meet all the athletes and then the fact it was Alaska. We did a bunch of sightseeing on the way back.”

It even turned out to be where Brady received his favorite stuffed animal – what the family affectionately calls “bearpuppy” since it looks like a dog and a bear. And just like Trentin, he’s attended nine straight games, too.

A Military History           

The Trentin family has a strong military history, fittingly with most of it in the Army. Trentin’s father, Patrick, served in World War II. So did two of his uncles –including one, Gerald, who served in the Devil’s Brigade, an elite American-Canadian commando unit during WWII. Two of his brothers, Steven and Samuel, served in Vietnam.

Trentin chose the Army not because of his family history, but because he wanted to earn money for college.

“They had a great college fund at that point and I didn’t have enough money to go to college without it and made use of it after I got hurt even,” says Trentin, who spent three years as an infantryman. “It was a chance to try some new things as far as a little bit of adventure there as an infantryman.”

PVA Changed Everything

Trentin found out about PVA as soon as he was injured and he signed up soon after he was injured. For awhile, though, he didn’t use their help and wasn’t involved with it. Living in the northern part of Wisconsin, he did his own thing since there wasn’t much access to it back then. He was also going to college and working full-time.

Then came that doctor who changed everything.

“Then, I started doing [the Games] – this is my ninth year now – and I love it now,” says Trentin, who is attending this year’s 35th National Veterans Wheelchair Games in Dallas. “Summer’s a time where we have time to do these things at this point in our life. It’s a great event.”

Trentin is competing in handcycle, basketball, table tennis and field events – including shot put, javelin and discus – in this year’s games. His favorite event, though, is handcycling.

“You can train on your own. I enjoyed biking before I was hurt. It’s something I can do with my family,” he says. “They can hop on their bikes and I can hop on my and we can go out and just have an enjoyable ride.”


The United States Army recently celebrated 240 years of service on June 14.


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