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Veterans Health Administration

Encouraging Vets with physical disabilities to try sports

Man running with prosthetic leg in shape of the word 'power'

 

Close up of runner's foot in the starting blocks

 

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Cameraman films a disabled athlete at a track

Shooting a video to help disabled Veterans “redefine” the mission.

A new dynamic 30-second public service announcement is designed to encourage Veterans and members of the Armed Forces with physical disabilities to get involved in sports to help open doors to new activities, enrich their lives and get them moving forward.

It’s part of the “Mission Redefined” campaign, a joint effort by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and U.S. Paralympics. You can watch it here.

The video features Navy Veteran Michael Johnston, a paratriathlete with hopes of competing in the sport’s Paralympic Games debut in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

Johnston says it’s a campaign he’s proud to be a part of, and believes it’s necessary to help disabled Veterans see what’s possible. Johnston knows firsthand about making the transition from being injured in the military to becoming an athlete.

“Something clicks in to get you back on track.”

In 2003, Johnston, then in the Navy, lost his left leg in a motorcycle accident. Yet he was able go through rehabilitation, learn to walk with a prosthesis and return to active duty.

The message with this campaign, he said, is that people and programs are out there to help Veterans get moving. And being active, finding a sport or activity, is a terrific step. Becoming an athlete has helped Johnston redefine his own life. Now he is trying to help others redefine theirs.

Christopher Nowak, VA’s director of National Veterans Sports Programs and Special Events, is in charge of the “Mission Redefined” campaign. Nowak, a Marine Corps Veteran who lost his right leg while serving, started work on the campaign in 2011.

To Nowak, Mission Redefined has multiple meanings. “One is the VA itself,” Nowak said. “We’re redefining our mission on how we deliver adaptive sports to Veterans as well as sporting opportunities. And also we’re using the campaign for Veterans. There’s an opportunity to redefine their mission in life. They’ve been through a traumatic injury and this is an opportunity for them to use sports to redefine their mission.”

“What we hope with this campaign is that Veterans understand that after a traumatic injury, life is not over. It may seem like it, they all go through it, as I did,” Nowak says. “You go through a certain phase in your life after your injury. But something clicks in to get you back on track and sports can be a giant part of that process.”

As Michael Johnston puts it, “Anybody who sees this video will connect with it. It breaks down all borders. It’s not just amputees, not just military. Everybody will connect with this movement.”

Learn more about VA’s Adaptive Sports program.