‘Semper Fi Fund’ Helps Injured Veterans Get Out On Slopes
PARK CITY, Utah – Park City Mountain Resort is the perfect winter playground this week for 25 disabled US military veterans, eager to hone their skills on skis and snowboards.
The Semper Fi Fund uses adaptive sports to help the injured service members work on physical agility and mental focus.
“One year I tried skiing, and knew that was for me,“ said Todd Morand, who served in the Marine Corps for a decade, including a deployment to Iraq.
A decade ago, his legs were paralyzed in an off-duty car crash. When the Semper Fi Fund got him out on a monoski, he felt physical and mental healing.
“You feel different than a normal person,” he said. “But, when you get out on the snow and you figure out how to work your equipment you’re right there with everybody else. It’s independence.“
He likes keeping up with other skiers, and enjoys the speed.
“You can go fast again, which is great,” said Morand.
He gets a natural high and battles depression by working out.
“You have to have a way to push yourself, to push your mind, challenge yourself and overcome obstacles,“ said the Marine Corps veteran.
“I was looking for a new sport, and skiing was it,” said Anthony Radetic, a Black Hawk helicopter pilot in the army.
His legs were also paralyzed in a car crash.
“I feel very independent whenever I’m out in the snow,” he said. “I don’t need help.“
Out on his monoski, he does his own thing, and has a blast on the mountain.
“Rip around with the guys,” he said. “We can hang with the fast guys that are skiing. It feels good to be up there with them.“
He said it helps with his self-esteem.
“If you can do that, then you can pretty much do anything,” said Radetic.
As important as anything, the Semper Fi Fund helps the disabled vets restore some of the camaraderie that they enjoyed when they were in the military. Just being together helps them feel some of the healing power of that bond.
“As soon as you get to an event like this, it’s instantly a relief,” said Morand. “Kind of feels like a weight is off of you. You can be yourself with everybody.“
“Being able to compete in sports, gave me part of my life back,” said John Lujan, a full-time staff member with the Semper Fi fund.
Lujan started off as a participant after he was injured in Iraq in 2003. As a staff member, he enjoys giving back as he works with the veterans.
“It’s therapy for me to come to these events,” he said. “It’s also really important for me to see the change in perspective from day one to day five.”
The veterans are in Park City for five days, and Lujan said it’s not unusual to see a veteran who has been closed off open up during the events on the mountain.
They each enjoy learning alongside fellow wounded vets as they trade stories and share strategies for coping with their injuries.
“It gives you confidence in your body in your body that you didn’t have before,“ said Morand.
A new way of life, and new group of friends.
“Lifelong friends,” said Radetic. “Lifelong brothers and lifelong sisters.”
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