Life changes after becoming a veteran in profound, life changing ways. Veterans whom come back wounded feel the same way, but at an amplified level as they have to relearn so many things that were second nature to them. This can take a toll that is completely different than what serving entailed.
The Star Tribune interviewed veterans who wanted to share their story. Veltri, who retired from active duty in 2003, came back and started college a few years later. His collegiate career ended when trying to assist someone during a fight and he ended up being paralyzed. Veltri was at a loss on what to do. As someone that was athletic prior to his injury, he was interested at the option of wheelchair adaptive sports. In 2009, he started his journey with Wisconsin Adaptive Sports Association. He now is on a lacrosse team with the Milwaukee Eagles, a team he helped become what it is today.
He is not alone in his venture. Dr. Kenneth Lee, a founding member of the team, states that the point of the team isn’t merely to play, as rehab is a component as well. The team is generational, as the starting age is 14. Lee, 52, leads the lacrosse team and is a veteran. He was injured in combat. After he suffered several injuries, which included nerve damage and injuries related to shrapnel, he was also at a loss what to do. He eventually looked to adaptive sports and found a connection. "We're looking at it as rehab as well, post-hospitalization rehab back in the community. This gives them an avenue to shoot for every year," said Lee, an associate professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin, medical director for the National Veterans Wheelchair Games and president of the Board of WASA. It became apparent to the players that the benefits were not just physical. "These guys kind of feed off each other, especially if they're still depressed or think they can't do anything like this," Lee said. "The other guys will come over and say, 'Yes you can, look what I can do.'" The camaraderie, the emotional connection of being on a team, the level of accountability really ensured a strong bond. The activity also boosted individual growth. It will be amazing to see this trend grow throughout the years. "It will actually activate your mind and your body, and it just makes you go," Lee said. "This is one of the best rehab or therapy there is."