Veterans Affairs Summer Sports Clinic – Story of Simon

“Hell yes I wanna try and do this! My brethren, my kind of people…got me there.”  Simon, a former Army Specialist who lost the use of his legs during a freak accident while stationed in Germany, sports a mohawk, drives a speedy electric wheelchair, exudes a loud and friendly personality, and is a die-hard supporter of the Veterans Affairs Summer Sports Clinic. The program, which brings together wounded warriors country-wide for a week of athletic competition, camaraderie, companionship, and confidence building has been a great healing activity.

Simon, who is at the clinic for his second year, wasn’t so eager at first. He recalls being told about the clinic and admits that the suggestion that he attend went straight to the back of his head. His wife, who accompanied him, along with their two young sons (who also sport matching Mohawks like their dad) was eager to explain that she signed him up for whatever she could and encouraged him to attend the clinic. Instead, he chose to sign up for a local craft class that catered to Veterans, where he explained that he was approached again and encouraged to sign up to compete. Simon decided to eventually sign up and the rest is history! He competed in all of the events during his first year and fell in love with hand cycling. He decided to pursue his new obsession and eventually moved forward to purchase one. “I was told I was too heavy for the bike I wanted…I went to spin class to lose weight.” That is dedication! Simon lost 20 lbs and competes at a level that he never thought he would.

In return, his wife, a huge supporter of him getting out and competing, was paid back by being convinced to get into a kayak this year, despite her inability to swim and keen stance on NOT going in the water, and learning with SImon. They certainly helped each other discover a new challenge and perhaps built a bit more confidence (although anybody meeting Simon would certainly agree that the former Army Specialist has confidence to spare).

Although he’s in his second year at the clinic (Veterans can only participate for two years), Simon told a sponsor they should refuse sponsorship until the rules change that allow Veterans to attend for more than two years…which his fellow comrades clapped in support of.

So, you think you have long, hard days? Stay tuned for more stories like Simon’s and be encouraged to push yourself like these Vets do every single day. Their stories, their passion, their love for the VA Summer Sports Clinic, and their confidence in themselves is enough to bring tears to your eyes…which I’ll admit…happened to me more than once today.

For inspirational photos from America’s Veterans participating at the clinic, please click here.