WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Navy Safe Harbor, the Navy and Coast Guard's wounded warrior support program, welcomed 28 seriously wounded, ill, and injured athletes at its winter adaptive athletic reconditioning camp Jan. 13-15 at Naval Base Ventura County (NVBC) Port Hueneme, Calif.
Throughout the holiday weekend, service members from across the country sharpened their skills in archery, shooting, wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball, track and field, cycling, and swimming. They were supervised by an accomplished coaching staff intimately familiar with the varied challenges wounded warriors face both on and off the playing field.
"The camp has given me the ability to get involved in a whole slew of things, and the expertise, motivation, and teaching capacity of the coaches was immensely helpful," said Navy Lt. Bradley Snyder. "I'd never thrown a shot put in my life and within an hour I was throwing relatively well. I think it's a testament to their teaching abilities."
Snyder - a Navy Safe Harbor enrollee who lost his vision in an improvised explosive device (IED) blast while deployed to Afghanistan - said sports have had a positive influence on his recovery. "It gives you something tangible to strive for in the future," he added.
Research shows that adaptive athletic reconditioning - sports that are modified to meet the abilities of injured or ill individuals - is very beneficial for wounded warriors. Navy Safe Harbor hosts a series of sports camps each year for enrollees; it also connects them with training opportunities available through various partner organizations.
Athletes at the winter camp were vying for a place on the Team Navy/Coast Guard roster for the 2012 Warrior Games, an annual competition among wounded warriors from all branches of service. The dates of the 2012 Warrior Games have yet to be determined.
"Each of our athletes would love a chance to participate in the Games, and the battle for a spot on Team Navy/Coast Guard is always friendly but fierce," said Navy Capt. Bernie Carter, director of Navy Safe Harbor. "However, the true purpose of these camps is to bring these recovering service members together to share their experiences, and to reinvigorate their minds and bodies."
"Navy Safe Harbor is extremely thankful that NBVC was once again willing to share their top-notch facilities. We could not host these camps without their support," added Carter.
The commanding officer of NVBC, Navy Capt. James McHugh, will soon conclude his three-year tour at the base. During his tenure, he has been a part of every adaptive athletic reconditioning camp hosted by Navy Safe Harbor. To show appreciation for his support, Navy Safe Harbor presented to him during the camp an award and a signed photograph of wounded warrior athletes.
"Interacting with you folks here at Safe Harbor has been one of the great pleasures I've had during my tour as commanding officer of NBVC," McHugh said. "This wounded warrior program truly has a place in my heart. A lot of people come to these events and say that, but I truly mean it. NBVC is a better place because of you."
Navy Aviation Machinist's Mate 3rd Class Chris Suter, a Navy Safe Harbor enrollee currently being treated for a serious illness, said the sports camp encouraged him to "get back in the game."
"Coming to these camps, you are with other people who understand," Suter said. "We have limitations. When you talk about the pain, they understand. I thought my tumor took away my ability to compete, but now I can get back in the game and fuel that desire."
To learn more about Navy Safe Harbor and its adaptive athletic reconditioning program, visit www.safeharbor.navylive.dodlive.mil, call 877-746-8563, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more news from Chief of Naval Personnel, visit www.navy.mil/local/cnp/.