“I love recreation therapy,” says Army Veteran Alex Hussey, pictured above in his sled. The combat-injured double-amputee is stoked to shred the slopes at the 33rd National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic.
After completing infantry training and jump school, he was assigned to the 82nd Airborne.
“That was awesome,” said Alex. “I loved jumping out of airplanes.”
In 2012, Alex deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan. After being in country a little more than six months, Alex stepped on an improvised explosive device. The blast severed both his legs and left hand and caused a severe traumatic brain injury.
After countless hours of rehab, Kim Hussey, Alex’s wife, noticed he was falling into a rut and was dreading therapy. That’s when they found recreation therapy.
“Alex looks forward to his therapy now,” said Kim. “His smile is so bright when he does something for the first time that he hasn’t been able to do since his injury, like sitting on his own, standing in the pool, and he loves horses a lot.”
Alex and Kim are making their first trip to the Winter Sports Clinic. He skied once at Mount Hood, Oregon spending four hours in a sit ski. “I could barely get him off the mountain,” remembered Kim.
As for Alex, remembering that day and looking forward to shredding the slopes of Snowmass—just one simple exclamation: “I cannot wait to ski again!”
The National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic is underway in Snowmass, Colo.
The annual clinic, hosted by VA and DAV (Disabled American Veterans), serves as a world leader in adaptive winter sports instruction for injured Veterans and promotes sports therapy and rehabilitation through adaptive Alpine and Nordic skiing, rock climbing, sled hockey, scuba diving, and other adaptive sports and activities.
“Adaptive sports therapy gives freedom to those heroes who have fought for our freedom,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie, said. “This clinic empowers Veterans to move past perceived limitations, reach their own personal victories and prove the impossible is possible.”
For many of the hundreds of Veterans who participate in the clinic, the adaptive sports journey is just beginning. For others, it becomes a way of life in Snowmass and is a passion they take back home. The hope is Veterans will build upon this experience and continue to lead active, healthy lives. Nearly 390 Veterans participated in the event in 2018.
“For those of us who were seriously injured in military service and have spent years being told our abilities are now limited, there is nothing more empowering than coming to this clinic and being able to prove how much we really can do,” said DAV National Commander Dennis Nixon, a Vietnam Veteran, and amputee. “It’s a dose of confidence and self-reliance that can —and does — truly change lives.”
Hundreds of volunteers, corporate partnerships, nonprofit organizations, and individual donors make this life-changing clinic possible.
Jeremy M. Laird is a Public Affairs Specialist at VA Salt Lake City HCS