WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Navy Wounded Warrior (NWW) - Safe Harbor, the Navy and Coast Guard's wounded warrior support program, kicked off its 2015 adaptive sports program with an introductory clinic Jan. 16-18 at Naval Base Ventura County, California.
Twenty-nine seriously wounded, ill and injured service members from across the country took part in archery, cycling, shooting, sitting volleyball, swimming, track and field, and wheelchair basketball during the three-day event. The sports have been modified to meet the needs of individuals who face challenges because of medical conditions.
"I was able to do things [at the clinic] that I thought that I couldn't do," said retired Navy Chief Logistics Specialist Leticia Baugher, from Independence, Missouri. "Seeing other athletes do things, especially the people confined to wheelchairs, motivated me to try new things. I really enjoyed meeting so many new people here, it was very motivational."
Baugher, a Navy Reservist and the mother of three children, was deployed to Bahrain in 2013 when she began experiencing debilitating back pain. After surgeries and multiple complications, Baugher was medically separated from the Navy in 2014 and continues to grapple with pain management. The clinic was her first adaptive sports experience, and she participated in cycling, sitting volleyball and shooting.
"Shooting was my favorite sport," she said, "which surprised me. It was relaxing. You are in your own little world, and the only thing you focus on is the target." She added that she hopes adaptive sports will help her be more active, aiding in her recovery.
During the clinic, the athletes, who have upper-body, lower-body, and spinal cord injuries; serious illnesses; post-traumatic stress disorder; traumatic brain injuries; and visual impairment trained alongside coaches who are nationally recognized for their expertise in adaptive sports. The event is one of several NWW sports camps leading up to the 2015 Warrior Games, an annual athletic competition among wounded warriors from all branches of service.
"I want to make the team," said retired Navy Electronics Technician 1st Class Maria Umayam, from Colorado Springs, Colorado. "I want to win some gold [at the Warrior Games] not just for me, but for the Navy!"
While assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) in 2012, Umayam suffered a stroke that resulted in paralysis of her left side. Her recovery is going well, as she is no longer confined to a wheelchair and can move her left hand. Umayam is new to adaptive sports, but she has been eager to get involved in the program since attending the 2014 Warrior Games as a spectator.
"The clinic was a nice place to meet new people and broaden your interests," she said. "I participated in pistol shooting, sitting volleyball, archery and upright cycling. Volleyball was really fun, but cycling was my favorite."
In addition to connecting wounded warriors with adaptive sports, NWW provides them with a variety of support services, from employment assistance, to help with pay and benefits issues, and more. A Fleet and Family Readiness program, NWW has assisted more than 3,200 seriously wounded, ill and injured service members to date.
To learn more about NWW or adaptive sports, visit http://safeharbor.navylive.dodlive.mil; call 855-NAVY WWP (628-9997); or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, follow NWW on Facebook (www.facebook.com/navysafeharbor) and Twitter (@navysafeharbor) for the latest news and resources.
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