Story Number: NNS140311-12Release Date: 3/11/2014 3:07:00 PM
By Patty Babb, Navy Wounded Warrior - Safe Harbor Public Affairs
SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- A group of seventeen seriously wounded, ill and injured Sailors and Coast Guardsmen participated in Navy Wounded Warrior (NWW) - Safe Harbor's first adaptive athletics camp at Naval Base San Diego March 7-9.
For retired Navy Cryptologic Technician (Collection) 2nd Class Troy Johnson, who has a traumatic brain injury and is confined to a wheelchair, the camp was an opportunity to swim for the first time since his 2012 snowboarding accident.
"To be honest, I was pretty stressed when we first arrived, but I am so glad that we came to the camp," said Johnson's wife Erika. "The staff here has been really accommodating. I hope Troy can continue aquatic therapy. It's something new that he can do, and he seems to really enjoy being in the pool."
In addition to swimming, the three-day camp offered cycling, seated volleyball and wheelchair basketball activities. While most of the wounded warrior athletes hailed from Navy Region Southwest, some traveled from Washington and Colorado to participate. More than half had never before been to an adaptive athletics event.
"This camp has been amazing," said Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Jaime Garza. "I am really enjoying the group activities. It's usually hard to get people with disabilities together to play sports, and this was a great opportunity to meet other people like me."
In July 2010, Garza was stationed in the Philippines when he suffered a traumatic brain injury after a 30-foot fall while fast-roping out of a helicopter during a training exercise. As he prepares to medically retire from the Navy, Garza is pursuing an internship and getting involved in adaptive athletics.
Adaptive athletics - sports that are modified to meet the abilities of injured or ill individuals - are essential to the recuperation of wounded warriors. Sports are proven to have numerous positive effects on these service members, including higher self-esteem, lower-stress levels, and fewer secondary medical conditions. For many wounded warriors, adaptive athletics helps them feel like part of a team again.
"I have definitely enjoyed the camp," said Master-at-Arms 2nd Class Reginald Yarbough, who has deployment-related post-traumatic stress disorder. "It's a great thing for me personally; it really helps my self-esteem. I like being able to get involved in something new, and to meet all the people here."
NWW has provided more than 1,350 Sailors and Coast Guardsmen, as well as their families, with non-medical care while they are recovering from serious illness or injury. Regional non-medical care providers tailor support to each enrolled service member's recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration needs. The program allows service members and their families to focus on recovery without distractions.