“We have arrived, let’s begin!” belts out Air Force Veteran Kim Specht, who proudly plants Mercury’s guidon in the ground near Stars and Stripes. Amidst the cheers, laughter and obvious pride, there is a lot more going on here than just sailing; nine women Veterans know they are about to be a part of something very special.
“Who wants the full America’s Cup experience?” yells the captain. Several women giggle like young girls before they jump to their feet and start barking out their own orders to each other. There is work to be done.
“I have waited 12 years for this, to feel this camaraderie again and to feel OK, like I belong again.” says Specht.
She and eight other women representing different branches, backgrounds and personal battles make up the first ever all women Veteran Summer Sports Clinic Team. While steering the boat, Specht tells me how she first learned of the games just nine months ago. Specht knew immediately she had to be a part of it. Determination lead her to the VA Adaptive Sports website and Acting Director Tristan Heaton’s phone number. She called him right away. “We have to have an all women’s team and he was like, ‘go for it Kim.’”
“I have never laughed so hard in my life.” says former 2nd Lieutenant Jazmin Coll-Serrano.
Team Mercury at the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic
Straining to hear her over the singing, dancing and constant laughter, the Air Force Veteran tells me her involvement with VA’s Adaptive Sports Program literally gave her a new life. After slowly losing her vision to a rare virus, Coll-Serrano has purpose again. She says Adaptive Sports is her life now hoping one day to inspire and train other Veterans.
“C’mon Mercury, 1-2-3!” Ten minutes later the main sail is up and Team Mercury is beaming from ear to ear—a new team, a new confidence and a new force to be reckoned with.
And don’t forget that VA’s Adaptive Sports team is on the ground to bring you the latest news, stories, and photos from all the events. Be sure to check out our Flickr photo set, which will be updated daily. And if you’re on Twitter, follow @VAAdaptiveSport and the #NVSSC hashtag.
Jill Atwood is a Public Affairs Officer with the Salt Lake City VA Medical Center. She served in the U.S. Army National Guard and is a Gulf War Veteran.