JACKSON’S GAP, Ala. – Army Pfc. Joshua Stein grew up in the water, swimming, diving and spearfishing at his native island of Saipan in the Pacific Ocean. Now, however, Stein is learning to water ski without his legs, which were blown off when a roadside bomb hit the Bradley fighting vehicle he was driving.
With help, Stein straps his scarred body into a cradle fitted on a single, wide ski. Then, he grasps the tow rope with a right arm covered with skin grafts and rises out of the water, grinning and giving a thumbs-up with his mangled left arm, as the boat roars away.
Similar military and civilian outdoor programs have quietly sprung up nationwide for permanently disabled vets like Stein, using the challenges and sheer fun of recreation to help them get past the pain and move them toward resuming their lives.
Last weekend, 25 disabled veterans were at Lake Martin in rural east Alabama for Operation Adventure, a sports program put on by the Birmingham-based Lakeshore Foundation at Camp ASCCA. The Easter Seals camp draws more than 10,000 disabled children and adults annually.