SAN DIEGO (NNS) -- Injured British and Israeli service members joined their U.S. counterparts at the U.S. Olympic Committee's Paralympic Military Sports Camp at Navy Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD) Oct. 4-7.
Eight British and six Israeli troops from various branches of their countries' armed services attended the camp, where they were introduced to a variety of paralympic sports including swimming, sitting volleyball, and archery.
For many it was their first introduction to the world of paralympic sports and the possibilities that technology, therapy, and good coaching can offer those who have sustained life-changing injuries in combat.
"It's too easy for people to sit down and feel sorry for themselves," said Joe Townsend, a British Royal Marine who lost both his legs in Afghanistan. "You have to motivate yourself to say, 'It's not the end, it's the beginning really.' I've never had a chance to come out here and do a paralympic sports camp before, so it's really about making the best of a bad situation."
Townsend and the rest of his team are patients at the Headley Court Military Hospital in Surrey, England. Their physical training instructor, Myro Rush, said this is the third year that British troops from Headley Court have been able to participate in the sports camp as part of a government program called Battle Back.
"Battle Back is a program that looks after our injured soldiers, takes them on adventure training, and keeps them active, so that they can go back to the regiment or whatever else they choose to do," said Rush.
Kingsley Ward, a Battle Back participant assigned to the British Army's Parachute Regiment, said he wanted to attend the camp for a change of pace, and a chance to see how others with his type of injuries are staying active.
"We haven't had an Olympic week," said Ward. "We usually do kayaking and adventure sort of sports. I also wanted to come because I'm missing a hand, and I wanted to see what other upper limb prosthetics people are using and just do some (physical exercise) for a week."
The six members of the Israeli team that attended were the first service members from their country to attend the Paralympic Military Sports Camp. Their participation was the result of the efforts of NMCSD staff and the non-profit organization Tikvot (Hebrew for "Hopes") who helped get the Israeli wounded warriors to San Diego for the event.
Tikvot Committee Member Shlomo Nimrodi, a former Israeli Army Lt. who lost his leg in Lebanon and now competes in triathlons, was one of the people NMCSD and the paralympics staff worked with to make the trip possible.
Nimrodi lives in San Diego and is an interpreter for the Israeli team. He said that unlike Britain and the U.S., Israel currently has few athletic programs available for its wounded warriors.
"Unfortunately in Israel, the awareness of [challenged-athlete] sports is very low," said Nimrodi. "It is basically limited to wheelchairs and sitting in a sailboat. But if you have to run with an artificial leg or bike with it, these capabilities do not exist in Israel. So we thought this would be a good way for them to see how rehab systems are being run here and inspire them to take what they've seen back to Israel and change things from within."
NMCSD Exercise Physiologist Betty Michalewicz is one of the staff members who pushed hard to get the Israeli team involved with the sports camp. A native of Israel, she said it was apparent after the first day of the camp that the efforts of NMCSD and Tikvot had paid off.
"From listening to their conversation, I know they expanded their horizon beyond what they thought was possible," said Michalewicz. "Yesterday I saw them watching an American warrior double amputee who lost both his limbs ten months ago. They were saying 'Look at him. He's walking. He's running. Look at what he is doing, it's unbelievable.' They were looking at these things, and seeing that they are possible."
For more news from Naval Medical Center San Diego, visit http://www.navy.mil/local/sd/.