Biden Encourages Winter Sports Clinic Participants
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
SNOWMASS VILLAGE, Colo., March 29, 2011 Vice President Joe Biden made another surprise appearance to the 25th National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic yesterday, encouraging disabled veterans as they hit the slopes and teasing them for showing him up on the mountain.
Vice President Joe Biden makes a surprise appearance amid a heavy snow to cheer on participants at the 25th National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic in Snowmass Village, Colo., March 28, 2011. DOD photo by Donna Miles
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“I’m a pretty good skier, but some of these veterans have really passed me by,” the vice president joked at the base of Snowmass Mountain as he chatted with disabled veterans getting strapped into adaptive skis amid a heavy snowfall.
Steps away from the slope, he watched a scuba-diving session as instructor Susan Ferguson explained, “We’re trying to give them a whole new experience.”
Mingling among the disabled veterans, volunteers and staff, Biden shook hands, posed for photos and hugged the mother of a wounded warrior as he checked out the events.
The visit was Biden’s third to the winter sports clinic. He stopped in during early registration March 26 to recognize the more than 600 volunteers supporting this year’s clinic. Then on March 27, he made an unannounced return to address about disabled veterans during the clinic’s opening-night ceremonies.
Biden hinted during those ceremonies that he might be back. “I’m not supposed to tell you, but I’ll be hiding out watching you,” he told the group.
Tyrone Allen, a former Navy petty officer third class, here for his first winter sports clinic after suffering a traumatic brain injury and spinal injury aboard USS Wasp in 2004, said he was thrilled that Biden remembered him from the previous night’s meeting.
“He said, ‘Hey big guy,’” said the 6-foot-5-inch Allen. “I have to say this is the greatest day of my life. You just don’t expect a person at that level to be so friendly and open.”
Biden told the veterans at the opening ceremony they’re an inspiration to their fellow Americans, and not so bad on the slopes, either. “I already got my [rear end] kicked by one guy on a sled and one guy with a prosthesis,” he joked. “And I’m a pretty good skier.”
The visit to the winter sports clinic, the first for a vice president, isn’t about politics, Biden told the group. “This is about all of you,” he said.
The vice president introduced his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, his sons -- including Army Capt. Joseph “Beau” Biden, who deployed to Iraq with the Delaware Army National Guard -- and his grandchildren to the audience. He quoted from John Steinbeck’s novel “East of Eden,” which calls soldiers the holiest of all humans because they’ve been tested.
“You are, in Steinbeck’s words, the most tested of Americans,” he told the veterans. “We’re here to pay tribute to you and to thank you.”
The National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, co-sponsored by the Veterans Affairs Department and Disabled American Veterans, is the world leader in promoting rehabilitation, officials said.
The event is open to veterans with spinal cord injuries, amputations, traumatic brain injuries, neurological challenges, and visual impairments who receive care through VA.
Participants in the five-day clinic learn adaptive Alpine and Nordic skiing and are exposed to various other winter-sports activities, all aimed at helping them focus on their abilities rather than their disabilities.