United States Department of Veterans Affairs
 Health Care
It’s not about the Medals
man in wheelchair and obstacle course
Augie Krieser competes in slalom, also known as the wheelchair obstacle course. The goal is to maneuver your wheelchair through a series of obstacles in the quickest time. This event relates very well to rehabilitation, as the obstacles mimic what the veterans might encounter in everyday life.

Thirty years ago, August Krieser, a Vietnam Veteran, swerved on his motorcycle to avoid hitting a dog and crashed into a culvert.

He has been in a wheelchair ever since.

Known as “Augie” to his friends, family and VA Medical Center staff, the 63-year-old receives care for his spinal cord injury at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center.

He is also known there for his extensive collection of medals he has won over the years at a very unique competition.

This year, at the 30th Annual National Veterans Wheelchair Games on July 4 in Denver, Colorado, Augie earned four more medals — two golds, a silver and a bronze.

He is quick to point out, however, that the medals are not important. “It’s the competition. And the desire to keep improving. My primary purpose is to try every year to go past my personal best.”

In the discus field event, his wheelchair is strapped down to allow a more aggressive throw.

In the slalom competition, also known as a wheelchair obstacle course, the goal is to maneuver your wheelchair through a series of obstacles in the quickest time.

As Augie points out, “The slalom relates very well to rehabilitation, as the obstacles mimic what Veterans might encounter in everyday life.”

Opening the event, Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki, said, “Events like this one are about more than just one week in your lives. It’s about deciding how to live the other 51 weeks of the year — demanding more from each of us, reaching higher and achieving more challenging goals, and then coming back next year better prepared, not just to enjoy, but also to reclaim more of life.”

A sentiment Augie embraces wholeheartedly, noting he feels a special responsibility to talk with the newest Veterans at the games and give them a “ray of hope.”

“Some of these guys and gals are just back from Iraq and Afghanistan. I enjoy talking with them about what I’ve been through and what they are going through and make sure they understand that their future can be full and exciting and productive.”

man in wheelchair throwing discus
In this event, Augie is competing in a field event called discus. His wheelchair is strapped down to allow a more aggressive throw.

His attachment to the newest Veterans is personal. His son Michael is a 70 percent disabled Veteran of Desert Storm. “I treat them all like they are my son.”

A professional firefighter after his tour of Vietnam, Augie enjoys being outdoors, loves fishing, talking politics, and preparing all year for his favorite pastime, the Wheelchair Games.

He also uses his experience to help other Vets as a board member of the Wisconsin chapter of Paralyzed Veterans of America.

Along with staff at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center, Augie is excited abut the new Spinal Cord Injury Center which will open there next year. The present 38-bed program is on the 10th floor of the Medical Center and has been there for 40 years. The new Center will be a freestanding building and will greatly improve treatment conditions for spinal cord injury rehabilitation and general care for Veteran patients.

Augie does not hold back in his praise for the Milwaukee VA Medical Center. “Hey, they’ve kept me alive for 30 years. I get wonderful medical treatment there.”

Currently battling a persistent circulation problem, Augie visits the medical center every two weeks.

And, in a wonderful nod to old fashioned manners, Augie adds that he always goes 15 minutes early “in case they need me to fill out any forms.”

The National Veterans Wheelchair Games is a multi-event sports and rehabilitation program for military service veterans who use wheelchairs for sports competition due to spinal cord injuries, amputations, or certain neurological problems. Attracting more than 500 athletes each year, the National Veterans Wheelchair Games is the largest annual wheelchair sports event in the world.

Related links:
  National Veterans Wheelchair Games