Dozens of wounded veterans and active-duty military members learned how to ski or snowboard during a special adaptive sports program. They said it’s a way to bond with other service members and take their minds off their struggles.
U.S. Army Specialist Chad Reynolds has seen a lot in his three tours of duty.
“We were moving IEDs from the sides of the roads and got into what was probably a dirty bomb,” Reynolds said. “It caused some severe nerve damage throughout my body.”
Reynolds cannot feel hot or cold temperatures due to his injuries. He was also shot when he served in Iraq and has PTSD. He got a service dog to help wake him up from his nightmares.
“The things that we’ve seen over there, it just gets stuck in your head,” Reynolds said. “I lost a really good friend of mine, and that’s always going to be with me.”
Reynolds learned how to ski and snowboard four years ago at the Blue Ridge Adaptive Snow Sports program.
Now he’s giving back and teaching other wounded veterans and active-duty military members how to snowboard at Warfighter Weekends at Liberty Mountain Resort.
“They look at me, and they think I’m fine. I look like a normal person because I don’t have any missing limbs or anything. It’s all up here. It’s all mental,” U.S. Air Force Airman First Class Samantha Madrid said.
Madrid has severe anxiety and depression from her time serving in the Air Force.
“Not everyone’s disability is visible. Many soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines come back from war and suffer on the inside, and you would never know that by looking at them,” said Mike Caselle, a volunteer ski instructor.
Caselle served in the U.S. Army for 25 years. He’s now helping those with physical and mental wounds by donating his time.
A monoski is used for people with more moderate injuries. It has a single ski, and the skier drives it. Instructors like Caselle guide people with severe physical injuries on a biski. It has two skis. Caselle said seeing the joy on wounded heroes faces is what brings him happiness.
“It brings me an incredible amount of joy to know that I’m making a difference in somebody’s life,” Caselle said.
Reynolds has learned to cheer his students on and encourage them when they fall, all while helping others cope with experiences he knows all too well.
“That bond in the military is there even though I’ve never met them before. I can laugh, I can joke with them, and it’s like we served together,” Reynolds said.
The program also teaches wounded veterans and active-duty service members to water ski in the summer. You can learn more about volunteering or taking part in the program by clicking here.