Every year, one participant is chosen for the DAV (Disabled American Veterans) Freedom Award for Outstanding Courage and Achievement. This honor is given to a veteran whose participation at the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic embodies the rehabilitative value and spirit of the event. It denotes the veteran who proves to the world that an injury or disability does not bar the doors to freedom.
The 2012 DAV Freedom Award was presented to an individual who, like many who participated, has time and again defied tremendous odds just to survive his injury.
On a rooftop during his second deployment to Iraq, while volunteering for a security mission, an enemy sniper did his utmost to end this soldier’s life. Fortunately, the bullet that pierced his Kevlar helmet met a stronger force when it struck his skull. It traced around the inside of his helmet, blowing out the other side.
No one there that day imagined he would survive, but his heart kept beating. He was taken to a rooftop and medically evacuated from the battlefield. Though his time in Iraq was over, a new fight had just begun. For months he lived in a coma, with his daughter and loved ones unsure if he’d live.
Still, his heart kept beating and the spirit within him drove him out of the darkness. He woke up to some catastrophic limitations. He went from being a leader of men, a staff sergeant, to being completely dependent on others to meet his simplest needs.
He never gave up. He fought on – learning all over again how to walk and talk and to live as independently as possible.
In 2007, he attended his first National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic. In addition to the amazing rehabilitative opportunities he embraced, he found a community of veterans who shared similar experiences and values – as well as the desire to reach their fullest personal potential.
In spite of his brain injury, he took up snowboarding once again. He also connected with the networks of support the event offers that keep he and his caregivers in touch with his fellow warriors throughout the year. As soon as he was able, he became a volunteer to give back to fellow veterans at his VA Medical Center.
In the last five years, he’s gone from being a survivor to becoming a true champion.
This year in particular, he showed a tremendous leap in his cognitive abilities and his ability to communicate – which only enhances the inspiration he provides all who are connected with the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic.
Many know him best by his nickname – which appropriately describes his heroic journey to this point…
2012 Freedom Award Recipient: Jarod “Superman” Behee!