Although understandably disappointed that the Annual National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic won’t take place on snow-capped Aspen mountain, Seth Cole (pictured above) is looking forward to the At Home event and seeing his adaptive sports friends virtually.
Cole, an Army Veteran who suffered a traumatic brain injury in Iraq after a grenade blast in 2007, has participated in previous Winter Sports Clinics. He initially tackled sit-down skiing and then challenged himself with snowboarding, one of his rehabilitation goals.
As part of this year’s at-home clinic, Cole presented a virtual session titled, “Overcoming Obstacles, Veteran Testimonials from Service to Slopes,” on April 1.
“The last couple of years have been hard, not being able to connect with our friends,” Cole said. “Not being able to see everybody. I look forward to that every year. I made a pact with a bunch of guys that I’ll go as long as we can go.”
Hoping to be making Miracles on the Mountainside in 2022
Hopefully, 2022 will be the year we are all back in Snowmass experiencing Miracles on the Mountainside.
As for overcoming obstacles, the father of four said he was struggling on many levels, at one point contemplating suicide, when he was introduced to adaptive sports through VA, beginning with a recumbent bike.
After successfully mastering the bike, his VA recreation therapist suggested that he consider the Winter Sports Clinic. She asked if he would want to learn to ski and explained that the Winter Sports Clinic has exceptional instructors and all the adaptive equipment he would need to try adaptive skiing.
Cole was quick to progress at the Winter Sports Clinic from sit-skiing to snowboarding, a newfound passion.
“Brought me back to a healthy mind, healthy body”
Cole has currently added music and songwriting to his repertoire, through a program called Guitars For Vets. “I threw myself into good eating, adaptive sports, music and engaging in a variety of different things,” he said. “It all kind of went hand in hand. These things are what brought me back to a healthy mind and healthy body again.”
Through an organization called CreatiVets, Cole recently co-wrote a song, “Rise Above,” with acclaimed Nashville songwriter Dave Turnbull, along with Chris Ferrara and Kyle Yepsen.
The song was recorded by country artist Craig Campbell and Cole has a featured role in the video.
Cole hopes to combine sports participation and music when he finally gets back to the Winter Sports Clinic in person. “I was hoping to be able to go up last year and do a songwriters’ round. I had a bunch of people interested in that.”
For now, however, Cole said he hopes the virtual opportunity will help maintain the continuity of camaraderie until they can reunite again in person on the slopes of Snowmass, Colorado.
“I’m glad the VA team is offering the At Home opportunity, I know a lot of guys and gals that count on attending and look forward to this each year,” he said. “This event has happened for years and years and then abruptly just stopped, so to have the chance to connect with each other, even remotely will hopefully bring us a little bit of what we are missing. I am hoping next year will be the year that we can get back together. That hope is what keeps us going and staying positive and active.”
James A. Hoehn works with VISN 19 Communications.