Former Staff Sgt. Claude Owens and retired Senior Airman Ramina Oraha prepare for a recumbent bike ride along the flightline at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas. Assisting Oraha is her brother, Mike. Cycling was one of the sports offered during an Air Force Adaptive Sports Program camp Sept. 14 and 15. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tammy Cournoyer)
Retired Staff Sgt. Zuleika Cruz-Pereira raises her paddle in victory after completing the kayak course at Canyon Lake during an Air Force Adaptive Sports Program camp Sept. 15, 2012. Joining Cruz-Pereira is Tech. Sgt. Hugo Vitela. During camp, Air Force wounded warriors were introduced to competitive wheelchair basketball, cycling with adaptive bikes, and kayaking and water skiing around Canyon Lake. (U.S. Air Force photo by Nicole Hart)
by Tammy Cournoyer
Air Force Personnel Center Warrior and Family Operations Center
10/5/2012 - JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas -- A dozen Air Force wounded warriors from around the country attended a two-day adaptive sports camp here Sept. 14 and 15, participating in events such as wheelchair basketball, cycling and kayaking.
Maj. Gen. A.J. Stewart, Air Force Personnel Center commander, welcomed the group and applauded their service, sacrifice and resiliency, joining them later in the day for a bike ride that enabled him to try out a recumbent bike, which places the rider in a reclining position.
The camp, offered by the Air Force Adaptive Sports Program, encourages wounded warriors to become active and learn to use equipment and methods based on their personal physical challenges.
They also meet other wounded warriors and discover they are not alone.
"This group of warriors had so much fun with one another and experienced many new perceptions of their injuries," Tony Jasso, a care manager with the Wounded Warrior Program, said. "Many warriors said they hadn't laughed so hard in a long time, while other warriors felt more confident and broke away from isolating habits."
Athletes can take their sports camp experiences home and build on them.
"We have a couple of cyclists who had almost given up riding because of the pain and difficulty during biking," Maj. Scott Bullis, a wounded warrior who served as a coach for this camp, said. "Both took quite a bit of encouragement to even try riding recumbent cycles, but both are now extremely active in cycling activities, with one recently completing a ride from San Francisco to Virginia Beach, Va."
"A lot of warriors interested in the camps were athletes before their injuries, and they are ready to get off the couch and get active," Jasso said. "This camp helped a lot of people realize and remember how much fun sports are, and how important physical activity can be with rehabilitation and recovery."
For one wounded warrior, retired Staff Sgt. Zuleika Cruz, the camp was the motivation she needed to feel better about life, and she encourages others to give sports camp a try.
"I used to see my injuries as the end of the world, but after talking to my fellow wounded warriors, it made me realize that if they can make it, I can make it too.
"Don't be afraid about it, and come to a camp," Cruz said. "Because I guarantee you, 100 percent, it will change your life forever."
Wounded warriors interested in attending an adaptive sports camp should contact Jasso at email@example.com, or call 800-581-9437.