Aubrey served in the National Guard from 2002 to 2005. She deployed to Afghanistan, where she sustained a serious injury. We caught up with her at a previous National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic organized by VA and DAV.
Tell us about the first time you came to VA, and what was that experience like?
The first time I came to VA, it was actually very rough. Because I was injured while I was overseas, it was very confusing. I had a head injury, so I don’t remember a lot of it. When I was injured, I completely severed my spinal column at the T 10 level. I’m part of the spinal cord unit at every VA where I’ve been treated.
The health care in general is great. I get all my health care through VA. If VA can’t do it, then I use the fee-based system to go outside VA. But VA in general is great. If I need anything, I just have to ask and kind of push for it.
How did you became involved with adaptive sports?
Well, my rec[reational] therapist told me about the Winter Sports Clinic and she said, You need to go. I was very, No, I’m not going. And she said, Promise me you’ll try it once and then I won’t bug you about it anymore. So, I did, and I loved it.
I’ve met all sorts of people here. It gave me a chance to come out here, learn new things, realize life didn’t end after my injury, that I can do anything I want. I just have to find a way.
Could you tell me about the different sports you’ve tried?
Through the Winter Sports Clinic, I tried archery my first year. I tried snowmobiling. And downhill skiing. I loved skiing before I was injured, and now I’m able to go out there and have a blast doing it, just a little differently.
Archery I loved so much, I went back home and bought my own bow. I’ve actually been a part of an international team.
Have you been able to get adaptive equipment through VA to continue sports at home?
VA purchased a hand cycle for me that I’ve been able to use. I love hand cycling. It’s introduced me to other sports that I love.
What would you say to a Veteran who hasn’t accessed VA care and services?
I am still learning things about the VA health care system that I didn’t know 10 years ago when I was initially injured, and they’re coming up with new programs frequently. I’ve learned new things that I didn’t learn in therapy.
I couldn’t figure out how to get dressed in my wheelchair. So, I asked the guys at the clinic. I said, “Hey, how do you guys do this? I can’t figure it out.” And I went home and I tried it, and like, this is great. I figured out how to do it.
It’s a chance to go and meet people in similar situations that understand and give you that chance to further develop you and learn who you are and try new things that you may not have known before.
I’ve been able to do so much more since my time in service, through people I’ve either met at VA or through VA programs. There’s nothing stopping me. I’m extremely happy right now and life is great.
Apply for VA Health Care
Enrolling for VA health care is easier than ever before. Explore your eligibility today at www.choose.va.gov/health.
Bronwyn Emmet is a public affairs specialist with the National Veterans Outreach Office.