When Navy Veteran Al Kovach woke up after spinal surgery, he asked the nurse if he was still alive. She answered affirmatively, and he immediately began to plan for his future as a paralyzed Veteran.
Kovach, a former Navy SEAL, Paralympian and two-time LA Marathon champion, joins Borne the Battle to discuss his career as a disabled athlete, his time as President of the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), and the impact and challenges of PVA.
The SEALs recruited Kovach out of nuclear power school due to his swimming career at Indiana University under legendary swim coach Doc Counsilman.
A parachute jump in 1991 went wrong, ending with Kovach undergoing surgery but never walking again. A member of PVA came to the hospital after he woke up to help him with his paperwork and transition to life as a paralyzed Veteran.
Living as a paralyzed Veteran allowed Kovach to return to competitive sports. He trained and competed in marathons, winning the LA Marathon twice and representing the USA in the 1996 Paralympics in Atlanta. He also completed a transcontinental triathlon.
Kovach found a new community within PVA and became actively involved in the VSO. Paralyzed Veterans of America is a congressionally chartered Veteran Service Organization (VSO). There are many Veteran nonprofits, but a Congressional Charter recognizes VSOs that are experts in their field. Congress and VA recognized PVA’s expertise as leaders in medicine and care for paralyzed Veterans. PVA was founded in 1946 when, as Kovach explains, medicine advanced enough to save paralyzed Veterans’ lives.
In this episode, Kovach discusses his athletic career, PVA’s congressional advocacy, and the changes he and other members of the PVA fight to improve quality of life for all disabled Americans.
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Jana Jenkins is a podcast intern with VA’s Digital Media Engagement team. She is an undergraduate student at the College of Saint Benedict studying Communication.