(WGGB) — To date, more than 6,400 men and women serving in the military have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
At least 48,000 have returned home wounded.
For many who’ve lost limbs, their sight, or their sanity, everyday life is their greatest challenge.
Now, their mission is being redefined, and thousands have new hope and a new life.
Surfing, kayaking, climbing and more – all of this is helping our wounded warriors adjust to post-war life.
Steven Bradford was a sniper in Baghdad.
During recon missions, he had close calls with 15 I.E.D.’s.
“I had major depressive disorder,” says Bradford.
Now, Winkler’s learning how to throw shot-put from the U.S. Paralympic world record holder Scott Winkler.
Paralyzed while serving in Iraq, Winkler’s here, with other paralympians, teaching wounded warriors about living life without limbs and without pity.
“I didn’t know what to expect in life. I felt like I wasn’t a soldier anymore. I didn’t know. I was angry.”
But his new passion is helping him through.
“if you believe, you can achieve.”
Dan Thornhill lost his legs in a car bombing in afghanistan. “this is the first time i’ve been in one of these racing chairs,” he says.
Paralympian Cece Mazyck is teaching him how to race. She lost the use of her legs in a parachuting accident.
“When I jumped out, I got entangled with another jumper,” says Mazyck.
Army vet and amputee John Register runs the veterans programs for the U.S. Olympic Committee. He says learning a new sport saved him and he believes it will save others.
“We have to get them to change their perspective about their situation,” Register adds.
It’s inspiration through rehabilitation.
“You can do it. Just never give up.”
“Being physical is a huge part of the healing process.”
“There is life after injury.”
The VA sponsors six national rehabilitation events each year and you don’t have to be a paralympian to take part in the adaptive sports programs.
Veterans can visit this website to learn more about adaptive and community sports programs offered by the VA.