FORT BELVOIR, Va. (Aug. 7, 2013) — Soldiers in the 1st Battalion, Warrior Transition Brigade, took to the water Aug. 2, on kayaks, tubes and water skis during the Introduction to Adapted Waterskiing Clinic at Tompkins Basin on Fort Belvoir.
“The purpose of having this clinic is to provide different opportunities for our warriors to heal. This is a therapeutic and rehabilitative process for them,” said Steve Smutak, Warrior Transition Brigade, or WTB, Military Adaptive Sports Program site coordinator.
Two Top Mountain Adaptive Sports Foundation hosted the event, providing the boats, equipment and waterskiing instructors for persons with disabilities. The Fort Belvoir Chapter of Team River Runner provided kayaks to shuttle Soldiers to the boat.
More than 30 warriors-in-transition attended the event, along with family members and 1st Battalion cadre, to enjoy water sports, have a picnic lunch and socialize away from their day-to-day recovery and medical appointments.
“This is my first time out,” said Spc. William Neal, 1st Bn., WTB, who was medically evacuated from Afghanistan last year, after sustaining gunshot wounds to his leg and chest. He attended the clinic with his family.
“I appreciate this opportunity to regain a little bit more strength, which I’m gaining slowly,” he said. “I got to ride on the boat, which was great, with my son and my daughter. My wife got out on a raft and did a little tubing. I took lots of photos.”
Neal said the event was a great way for Soldiers in the WTB to ease back into their new lives.
“You’ve still got a lot of guys who have issues with large crowds,” he said. “It gives us a chance to get together with people other than military and just socialize and network and have a great time. This is what it’s all about — just getting back into the swing of things.”
On the water, the Soldiers could use a variety of specialized equipment, including a caged-in floating snowboard ski with a sling seat; water skis with two tandem skis to prevent falling over; and water skis with a slot for the rope, so skiers without the use of their arms could be pulled.
“If you can’t stand up, you can sit down and ski,” Smutak said. “If you need, we have additional skiers who will ski right next to you and hold your cage up so you don’t fall over, and as you get more advanced you move on from that.”
There were also wakeboards, kneeboards, tubes and boat rides up for grabs.
The clinic was the second of its kind on Fort Belvoir. A third clinic is being planned for September, Smutak said.
Spc. Jordan Knox, another Soldier in 1st Bn., WTB, spent some time riding on the boat and tubing.
“I haven’t really been on the water too much my entire life, so it’s kind of new to me still. It’s lot of fun,” he said.
Knox said the change of pace from medical appointments and hanging around the barracks was like a breath of fresh air.
“I’ve been in the WTB for almost a year now, and when there’s nothing to do but sit around, it gets old fast,” he said. “It was great to get out of the barracks, hang out with other wounded Soldiers, get to know each other (and) make friendships.”
Two Top Mountain is a non-profit organization that offers recreational activities and teaches sports to mentally and physically challenged children and adults. For more information, visit www.twotopadaptive.org.
Team River Runner is also a non-profit organization that aims to help warriors in transition heal through paddle-sports like kayaking. For more information, visit www.teamriverrunner.org.