Compiled by Frank Matranga

The participant application process for the 32nd National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic will be open Nov. 1 through 30.

The event, co-hosted by DAV and the Department of Veterans Affairs, has changed the lives of more than 10,000 of America’s most severely injured and ill veterans since its inception. The clinic, which is the largest adaptive rehabilitative sporting event of its kind in the world, will again take place in Snowmass Village, Colorado (near Aspen), and run April 1 through 6, 2018.

“We strive to make this the best rehabilitative event in the world. We want veterans to achieve their highest possible potential, and that’s a little bit different for everyone who attends,” said Teresa Parks, the VA’s director for the event. “If a veteran can stand, even if he or she has a severe injury, we have frames that can hold them up. If they want to ski, we have equipment for them. If they want to snowboard, we can accommodate that. The purpose of the event is to remove any obstacle that stands in their way.”

Often referred to as “Miracles on a Mountainside,” the clinic helps injured veterans rebuild confidence by regaining balance in their lives and by making connections with other veterans who have had similar experiences.

“One thing that has always stood out to me is seeing the participants feed off of each other’s energy and sharing their secrets of perseverance and success,” said National Voluntary Services Director John Kleindienst. “Perhaps, most importantly, they enjoy the camaraderie this week offers, but they also know it doesn’t have to end when they leave the mountain. I’ve never seen an expiration date on camaraderie.”

The clinic is open to U.S. military veterans with traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, orthopedic amputations, visual impairments, certain neurological problems and other disabilities who receive care at a VA medical facility or military treatment center. Some active-duty military members are also eligible to participate.

Studies show adaptive sports alleviate stress, reduce reliance on pain and depression medication, and result in higher achievement in education and employment while also leading to greater independence.

“Seeing the profound impact this clinic has had on so many thousands of veterans and their family members over the years has been a great honor for DAV,” said Barry Jesinoski, national headquarters executive director. “We certainly hope to be a part of this for many more years — and many more veterans — to come.”


VFW names 2017 Teachers of the Year

The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. is proud to announce its selection of three teachers in its 2017 Smart/Maher VFW National Citizenship Education Teacher Award contest.

Each year, one teacher is selected from the elementary (K-5), middle (6-8) and high school (9-12) levels.

Theresa Early, a fourth-grade special education teacher at Laurel Ridge Elementary School in Fairfax, Va., was named the elementary school winner for her involvement in her school’s Military Kids Club, establishing a student color guard, and encouraging students to draft classroom rules during Constitution Day festivities.

Representing the middle school level, Jeffrey Benes, an Iraq War veteran and a seventh-grade geography teacher at Antioch Middle School in Gladstone, Mo., was chosen for his involvement in the school’s Veterans Day program, annual field trips to the National World War I Museum, and his dedication to encouraging his students to understand and be active in the political process. Benes is also a VFW Life member of VFW Post 7397 in Lenexa, Kan.

Steve Johnson, a science teacher at Churchill County High School in Fallon, Nev., was selected at the high school level for constructing a Wall of Heroes in the classroom to recognize local veterans and several former students currently in the military, and for organizing students and the community to collect, assemble and mail care packages to troops.

Each teacher will receive an all-expense-paid trip to New Orleans, La., where they will be presented with a $1,000 award for professional development and $1,000 for their school during the 118th VFW National Convention, July 22-26.

“Teachers like Theresa, Jeffrey and Steve are vital to ensuring today’s students become a great generation of leaders with a sense of pride and responsibility for our nation,” said VFW National Commander Brian Duffy. “This year’s recipients exemplify this responsibility by creating energetic, passionate and civically-minded environments in their classroom year-round.”

Cosponsored by past VFW National Commander John Smart and retired VFW Quartermaster General Larry Maher, the Smart/Maher VFW National Citizenship Education Teacher Award was established in 1999 to recognize three exceptional teachers for their outstanding commitment to teach Americanism and patriotism to their students. Recipients are selected from entries submitted by local VFW Posts in the U.S. and overseas areas. The entries detail a local teacher’s act of promoting civic responsibility, flag etiquette and patriotism in the classroom.