Country music star Aaron Tippin with three Paralyzed Veterans of America members at Veterans Appreciation Day July 2015. Photo PVA Staff
PVA and Boy Scouts of America honor veterans
More than 20 Paralyzed Veterans of America members recently teamed up with the Boy Scouts of America for a day of activities designed to honor the service and sacrifice of our nation’s active duty and veteran service members.
The Boy Scouts’ inaugural Veterans Appreciation Day paired disabled veterans from Paralyzed Veterans of America and Wounded Warrior Project as well as active duty members of the West Virginia National Guard with Boy Scouts for a day of activities including canopy tours, kayaking, air rifles and fishing. The new annual event took place at the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve, a training, Scouting and adventure center spanning more than 14,000 acres in Beckley, W.V.
Ernie Butler, sports director for Paralyzed Veterans of America, said 39 three-person teams of one veteran, a National Guard member and a Boy Scout were formed to compete in the day of events, which kicked off with a 2K walk/run/roll race.
Following the race was an opening and colors ceremony, after which participants could choose from a variety of activities including canopy tours, archery, kayaking, fishing, climbing, ziplining and challenge courses developed by Butler and Roger Sack, sports director of the West Virginia chapter of Paralyzed Veterans of America.
While the event drew veterans who were already experienced in adaptive sports, one event that was new to all was ziplining. The Bechtel Reserve facilities utilized a Tru Blue autodesender that safely lowered disabled veterans at one foot per second down to their wheelchairs at the end of their ziplining adventure. These desenders are normally used on the Scout’s climbing wall, but through the ingenuity of the Boy Scouts, all disabled veterans who wanted to have a zip line experience were able to do so, Butler said.
“The Boy Scouts had a really unique way to get our members up and off of the zipline tower,” he said. “Everyone who did the zipline had nothing but great things to say about it.”
The event also included a presentation of a Paramobile chair to Butler, a paralyzed Air Force veteran, by Anthony Netto, founder of the Stand Up and Play Foundation. Butler often borrows the Paramobile chair – which lifts the user into standing position for almost any sport including golf, basketball, shooting sports, and archery – at various events he attends with Netto. Butler said the chair will be used for the benefit of all Paralyzed Veteran’s sports and recreation programs, particularly golf.
“It was an extraordinary gift that Stand Up and Play presented me with, and we intend to put to very good use demonstrating the Paramobile’s versatility and functionality to our members and when possible, allow our members and other disabled veterans to try it,” Butler said.
The day concluded with a closing ceremony, picnic and a live performance by Doyle Dykes, the West Virginia National Guard band and Aaron Tippin, a longtime supporter and advocate of Paralyzed Veterans of America.
Reed Weir, a paralyzed Army veteran, said he was honored to participate in the day and receive such strong support from the Boy Scouts as well as fellow veterans and active duty service members.
“My team was awesome,” Weir said. “It wasn’t just about winning, and even though we finished second overall and took first in archery and marksmanship, it was about functioning as a cohesive unit. In a very real sense, it felt as if I was back in the middle weeks of boot camp in that there was no way we were going to allow any of the tests or obstacles to beat us.”
Planning is already underway for the second annual Boy Scouts’ Veterans Appreciation Day, which likely will take place in early June of 2016, Butler said.
“Paralyzed Veterans of America is thankful and appreciative of the efforts of the Boy Scouts in not only hosting the event but allowing our membership to enjoy the facilities that a lot of the general public will never have the opportunity to see,” Butler said. “It’s magnificent, and the Boy Scouts couldn’t have been better hosts.”
Brittany Ballenstedt is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in several publications, including Government Executive, National Journal, Technology Daily and NextGov.com.