By Andrea Sutherland (Fort Carson)June 15, 2011
FORT CARSON, Colo. -- The kayaker thrashed in the water of Fort Carson’s Indoor Pool as he tried to roll his boat upright. After three tries, Frank Hackney went to help, turning the kayaker upright so he could catch his breath.
“It’s frustrating,” said Marc Dervaes, a Soldier from the Warrior Transition Battalion. “Part of the reason is your body remembers it the way it used to be. You’ve got to recalculate.”
“I let them do it a few times and if they’re not getting it, I start them back at square one,” said Hackney, a volunteer for Team River Runner, a nonprofit that works with wounded servicemembers. “It’s about not letting them do it till they get frustrated.”
Hackney, alongside employees from the Fort Carson Outdoor Recreation Center complex, spends every Friday with Soldiers at the wounded warrior kayak clinics at the Indoor Pool, which are available to Soldiers from the Warrior Transition Battalion at no cost.
“It’s about getting butts in boats.” said David Bumgarner, adventure program coordinator at outdoor recreation. “Kayaking is good because we can adapt more easily … You can be paralyzed, you can be missing an arm or a leg and we’ll still get you kayaking.”
When Dervaes first tried kayaking after losing his arm in 2009 when insurgents ambushed his vehicle in Kunar Province in Afghanistan, he assumed he would never again kayak or participate in any of the activities he enjoyed prior to his injury.
“I tuned it out at first,” said Dervaes, who spent nine months at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio. “My (doctor) offered to make me a ‘workout arm’ and I saw the kayaking arm.”
Dervaes decided to attend one of the recreational therapy kayak sessions at the Center for the Intrepid at Fort Sam Houston.
Getting back in the kayak was frustrating.
“It felt foreign,” Dervaes said. “My right arm was my dominant arm. I couldn’t extend it as far as I used to. I had to learn to roll the opposite way.”
Dervaes said that despite the challenges, he participated every week and in two months, he was able to roll his kayak.
When the Army reassigned Dervaes to the Warrior Transition Battalion at Fort Carson, the 37-
year-old began participating in the wounded warrior kayaking clinics through Outdoor Recreation, a part of the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation.
“I’m still continuing to learn,” Dervaes said. “The people from the outdoor rec center have been fantastic.”
In 2008, Outdoor Recreation partnered with Team River Runner to create an adaptive kayaking program for Soldiers.
“Soldiers are used to being in high adrenaline situations,” said Tara Allman, a coordinator for the wounded warrior kayak clinic and Outdoor Recreation. “This provides them an outlet for that adrenaline.”
The adaptive kayaking program is one way Fort Carson is trying to improve opportunities for wounded Soldiers.
“These guys have to learn to adapt,” Bumgarner said. “The purpose of this is to provide positive outlets. Providing outlets provides these guys, I would say, with a reason to live.”
The employees at Outdoor Recreation center said they are dedicated to helping Soldiers with
any type of injury find a way to participate in sports.
Last winter Bumgarner organized an adaptive skiing program with the Adaptive Sports Center in Crested Butte. Outdoor Recreation also works with Project Healing Waters to provide opportunities for adaptive fly fishing.
“If anyone came to us wanting to do a sport, we’d help,” Allman said.
This summer, Outdoor Recreation offers two, two-day adaptive rafting and kayak trips for wounded warriors and their Families at no charge. Outdoor Recreation also offers numerous trips for all Soldiers at minimal cost.