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Warrior Transition Unit Europe - Veterans Day Thanks

Nov. 11, 2011, 9:18 a.m. (ET)

This seems fitting to post on Veterans Day....I’ve been on the second largest US Army base in the world this week, somewhere in Germany about 120km from Frankfurt, in between Mac’s regionals (they advanced, now 26-0…) and the State Championships in Denver.  The Army is observing Warrior Care month, and the Warrior Transition Battalion – Europe have a four-day “Train the Trainers” event going on, that includes Archery (so 2x Paralympian Kevin is here, Wheelchair Basketball and Sitting VB.  The theme “Healing the Mind, Body and Spirit: Unlocking Unlimited Potential.”  

So on my daughter’s 18th birthday, a long morning hug goodbye led into the 90 mile “dash to DIA” to catch a flight to the east coast and then the overnight into Frankfurt Main. On landing, rented a car and opened the driving directions that US Paralympics had emailed me to the Hotel Barbarossahof… in the first 1,000 meters I was supposed to Head east on Ankunftbogen toward Abflugbogen… Ankunftbogen turns slightly left and becomes Abflugbogen… Slight right onto Abflugring …Slight left onto the B43 ramp to A3/Köln/Mainz/Wiesbaden/Kelsterbach…  Driving alone, I could already see the adventure ahead, so I bailed out and rented a GPS unit…

Ah, the German Autoban  and a five speed….in the no speed limit areas, my little Renault clocked 200 KPH ,” bringing back memories of my first time going over a hundred miles an hour driving a car on the Pacific Coast Highway back in my high school days… On arrival and check in, I noted that the “Herald Post” newspaper which is “serving the communities in US Army Garrison Baden-Wurttenberg”  has Heidelburg High School’s Carrie Smith on the cover, attacking, during a match against Ansback and Hohenfels.  They won and, ranked #1 in Division 1, they came to Ramstein to face seven other D1 schools in the European Championships.  Some coaches from CAP courses in the past are over here, and while I misconnected with Hia Sebastian darn it, Brian Swenty did drive 4 hours to spend two days helping, and planning on ways to help the American High Schools in Europe and the Pacific.  Brian’s team took fourth but he said it was the most rewarding season ever…he is doing good things, his USAV CAP training being put to good use and more, as he now is going to do a sitting program back at his base…

Your basic beer and meat meals with the US Paralympic staff taught me some interesting things…to wit…

Kevin Stone is here, 2004/2008 Paralympian who does a lot of service dog work with Congress, regaling us with stories of his dog jumping on congressman’s chair. Kevin was injured in a car crash where his driver lost control, tumbling 150 feet down a hill. Kevin survived with a TBI and spinal cord fractures, but his driver did not… about Chuck Leer, marine injured in Vietnam by a Chinese mortar who competed in China 2008… of 62 year old  Butch Johnson, if he makes it in 2012, will be a six time Olympian in archery, who has medaled…so I need to search  or and learn more about him…

WTB-E Commander Lt. Col. Michael Richardson noted that “the survivability of today’s injuries, especially in battle, is remarkable, but those injuries and the subsequent disabilities are very long lasting”  So true, as what killed soldiers in WWII and Vietnam, with advances in medical care and response times, the soldiers now survive…Here is an article that ran in the ” Stars and Stripes” about this Paralympic Adaptive Sport Experience. As you can see from both the video and film, we got the 3 star general,

The biggest memory will be of the staff, with Kevin and Tyler in their wheelchairs, going to dinner at one of the largest castles in Germany. Built in the 1200, wheelchairs and disabled access was not part of the plan.  A team effort to get our two fellow staffers to enjoy everything we were seeing, on a magical nite in the fog…Here are three of my favorite pictures that I took that nite…

One of the sessions over the four days was called “YEAH-BUT” after the famous “yeahbut birds” that flock around these training events.  Here is the list from here:No ADA (American Disabilities Act)….Equipment…..Resources  (Access)…..Money…..Lack of motivation (closed mindedness)….Education…Communication and Protectiveness…Lack of Expertise…Lack of Respect to Instructors…Time!...Selling Programs…Culture Change…Publicity…Limited Profiles…

Another site topic was on Energy Management…..Reinterpret Challenges as Opportunities….Reinterpret Nerves...Tactical Breathing/Relaxation…..Grip/Gravity – Control/Can’t Control….and GOAL SETTING….Values…Dream Big….Set priorities, actions, attitudes…Commitment (Curtis Martin)….Monitor Progress… and  Integrating Imagery….Imagery Script….Use before, after, during event….Used for pain, skill development, improved performance.

For those wanting to know a bit more about the program’s training overall and information on recovery and rehab,  check out Building a Soldier Athlete”  -especially the appendix.  It was fun watching Kevin at the Rod and Gun club teaching all the trainers archery, using the adapation options, by having one of their teammates shoot sitting in a chair, and another (to simulate being an amputee) shooting with one knee on the same chair…I got to go as the Sitting team core staff is now trying to qualify the USA men in the ParaPanAms in Mexico, so let’s wish them luck in getting past Brazil this time (4 year ago, they lost in Brazil, 13-15 in the gold medal qualifying match in front of 7,000 screaming yellow shirted fans…). 

So ASAP,  I am planning on going see a ski movie in Denver that is narrated by my father’s old USC college roommate, none other than Warren Miller.  The name is The Movement, and is about Rick Finkelstein. The notes say...In 2004, he was paralyzed in a ski accident on Aspen Mountain. With a severed spine and internal trauma, he wasn't expected to live. Six years, nine surgeries, and a seeming lifetime of rehab later, his dramatic return to Aspen was captured on film. Even with the latest gear, expert coaching, and mentorship from the sport's pioneers, Rick faced a daunting challenge with many risks and no guarantees. “The Movement” is about making tough choices, beating the odds, and living life to the fullest; Miller and Robert Redford narrate this incredible documentary by Kurt Miller and Greg I. Hamilton.  I say, watch it…along with this 2 minute film I took of double match point happening between Army and Air Force, and Navy/Coast Guard and the Marines at the Warrior Games this past May. That clip will show you all why sitting volleyball is part of the WTU program, not just here in Europe but around the world…

Citius, Altius, Fortius all, Veterans Day gratitude, and thanks for your help in growing ALL sports…

The following comments were made on our previous web platform and have been transferred here to maintain the historical record.

On November 11, 2011 Joe Campbell wrote

Great story and great photos! Thank you John for taking the time to bring this story to life. As a veteran, I truly appreciate your time and effort in putting this together. Best wishes, Joe

On November 12, 2011 Joseph Byrne wrote

Way to sum it all up John. Great pics, thanks for editing out the en route adventure video portion of the Lichtenburg Castle trip. The pictures truly capture the spirit of the program, 'adapt and overcome'.

On November 12, 2011 Joseph Byrne wrote

Way to sum it all up John. Great pics, thanks for editing out the en route adventure video portion of the Lichtenburg Castle trip. The pictures truly capture the spirit of the program, 'adapt and overcome'.

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