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Veterans Crisis Line Badge

Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

Remarks by Secretary Robert A. McDonald

Winter Sports Clinic
Snowmass, Colorado
April 8, 2016

Marc, thank you for the kind introduction, for your leadership at Grand Junction, and for hosting this truly important event.

Let me begin by telling you how inspiring it is to share time with you—the incredible men and women who have served our great Nation. You’ve displayed extraordinary strength and resilience in the face of adversity to protect the freedoms we, as Americans, enjoy daily. That mental and physical strength is what made you a proud Soldier, Sailor, Airman, and Marine or Coastguardsman.

Your ability to adapt to life’s hardships and challenges required sacrifices—before and after your wounds and injuries.

Your injuries are a reminder of the costs of defending our Nation.

Although you have suffered physical setbacks, your presence here this week makes clear that you haven’t given up after being disabled as a result of military service. You still live by the lessons learned in uniform.

You remain disciplined and dedicated because you still have a mission and purpose. While it is different, this mission also requires overcoming obstacles and making sacrifices. It demands courage and determination. And it requires hope.

On one of the best days in my life, I was incredibly privileged to see a paralyzed Veteran walk again. He got up from the wheelchair he’d been in for 40 years and walked.

Some might call it a miracle. In a sense, it was miraculous, but not in the way you might think.

His name was Billy, and he could walk because some good people trained him how on how to use an exoskeleton. But it wasn’t so much about getting someone to walk. To Billy, the most important thing was this—he could stand and look you in the eye again.

It was that simple. It was about being able to look another person in the eye, level with them. It was about his sense of human dignity.

So the miracle wasn’t Billy standing. The miracle was the sense of purpose, that guiding light that drove some very good people to make a profound difference in the life of just one person.

There is a reason Snowmass is known as the miracle on the mountain. And there is immense importance to the adaptive sports therapy promoted here for Veterans like you.

Adaptive sports therapy emphasizes abilities—not disabilities.

It highlights achievements—not failures.

Simply put, adaptive sports therapy gives freedom to those who have fought for our freedom.

Think about it—many of you did things you never thought you could or would do again. Participating in the Winter Sports Clinic empowers you—to believe in yourself and to let go of what you or others might see as limitations.

And that is why we are here. As you journey back to life, VA and its partners are doing the best for those we serve. Your well-being and your success are our priority.

Let me end by thanking the dedicated and devoted people who’ve made this week possible. The Winter Sports Clinic demonstrates how successful partnerships are rooted in a common vision, shared values, and devotion to Veterans’ and their families’ future.

To Ralph, Teresa, and your incredible staff: Thanks for the excellent care you provide to Veterans every day, and for this incredible program that highlights Veterans’ capabilities.

To Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and their National Commander, Moses McIntosh, VSOs, and all of our corporate, local, and non-profit sponsors: Snowmass is the result of your generous commitment of volunteers and finances to our Nation’s servicemen and women. We are honored that you chose our Veterans to support.

To the families and caregivers who are here today, thanks for trusting VA to care for our wounded Veterans, and thank you for supporting and encouraging your loved ones during this rigorous week-long event.

Finally, I want to thank our Veteran athletes for your honorable and selfless.

God bless you, our Veterans, and this great Nation.