By Wavelyn DreherApril 6, 2007
SNOWMASS VILLAGE, Colo. (Army News Service, April 6, 2007) - The last time Dallas Chambless skied was on a high school class trip in 2002. This year, his adventures were dramatically different - the 23-year-old Texas native is now paralyzed from the waist down.
Chambless challenged himself on the Rocky Mountain slopes at the 21st National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, which began Sunday and ends today in Snowmass Village, Colo.
Sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Disabled American Veterans, the clinic gives disabled veterans opportunities for self-development and challenge through sports and leisure activities.
This year's clinic has drawn almost 90 servicemembers injured in operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
Participants are able to develop such winter sports skills as adaptive skiing, and take part in a variety of adaptive workshops that demonstrate that having a physical or visual disability need not be an obstacle to an active, rewarding life.
By his fourth day at the clinic, Chambless had already met his goal of skiing down the black diamond expert runs, participating on a special race team. The race training and development program, developed under an agreement with VA and the U.S. Olympic Committee, is designed to help veterans develop their skiing abilities to an elite level, with an ultimate goal of qualifying for the U.S. Paralympic Team. Now, the former high school athlete is hoping to have learned enough to qualify for participation.
"I'm going to go up there to learn from the actual pros," Chambless said with a mixture of nonchalance and excitement in his voice.
The event attracted other heroes from Texas and across the country, with nearly 370 participants coming from 41 states and even one veteran from Micronesia.
Alan Babin of San Antonio, Texas, was a medic serving in Iraq when he took a gunshot wound to the abdomen while rushing to render aid to a wounded Soldier. The injury resulted in cardiovascular complications, but that hasn't stopped him from confronting new challenges.
"For one week I feel normal again," said Babin. "The Winter Sports Clinic has shown that I can still do so many things."
Sandy Trombetta, clinic founder and recreation therapist at the Grand Junction VA Medial Center, said veterans have much to gain from the clinic.
"They gain peer interaction, meeting men and women from past conflicts, and realize that they are part of a sacred fraternity," Tombetta said. "They witness what can be achieved from people like them with similar disabilities."