Adaptive camp opens doors for wounded warriors
January 15, 2010
Steamboat Springs — For Travis Greene, the miracles have come, and now they've gone. He's come to terms with the fact that he can take care of himself, live his life and even play sports.
He's acknowledged the miracle that he didn't die on the side of an Iraq highway four years ago, and he's come to terms with the humbling truth that he's alive even after his heart stopped cold four times in the days and weeks after he lost his legs.
But his week of skiing at the All Mountain Adaptive Ski Camp at Steamboat Ski Area, that's not a miracle.
"This is back to normal," he said, riding the Sundown Express chairlift on a bluebird morning. "I've already had my earth-shattering experience where I realized, 'Yes, I get to do this again!' This, this is just getting back to normal, which is awesome."
The Wounded Warrior program has been a part of the All Mountain camp in each of its five years, and in 2010, seven disabled veterans attended.
For Ted Wade, a successful trip down a ski run still is something to celebrate. Wade was struck in the head by shrapnel and tossed from his Humvee after it was rocked by an improvised explosive device in Iraq in 2004. His right arm was severed.
Some things still are difficult, he said.
"It's not so much a physical thing," he said, speaking not slowly but carefully. "It's my mind."
The camp, which started Monday and wrapped up Thursday with a day on Buffalo Pass with Steamboat Powdercats, was the fourth for Wade and his wife, Sarah.
She and her husband's family were presented the decision about withdrawing Wade's life support early in a 10-week coma after the explosion. Now, she loves to send photos back to his surgeons to show just what they accomplished when they worked to save his life.
Four years ago during a ski camp, Ted Wade can't really remember, his body still was weak, and he struggled to make turns.
Now, his favorite part of the mountain is Morningside Park after a good powder dump.
"I remember we went skiing after his first tour, when he got back from Afghanistan," Sarah Wade said. "I took that for granted. Now, it's like this is a miracle. It was beyond anyone's wildest dreams that he would ever be out snow skiing again."
Greene, meanwhile, attacked Steamboat Ski Area, flying down runs and over
the morning's fresh corduroy with enthusiasm. He struggled a little Thursday when he
and more than three dozen other campers and family members skied on Buff Pass, but by midday, he was ripping through powder much the same way.
"The key is to lean back," he said with a grin after exiting the snowcat.
In another life, Greene was a track star, first at Twin Falls High School in Idaho, where he qualified for state four times, then at Boise State.
He joined the Marines after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and had served two tours in Iraq before a truck was blown up in front of him in 2005, three months in to his third go-around. A second bomb detonated as he and his buddies tried to pull survivors from the first wreck.
"It's like a weird dream," he said, trying to recall the events. "From that one explosion, there were four double above-the-knee amputees and one single above-the-knee amputee. One guy died, and one guy was burned."
Even after Greene returned to the United States, his prognosis was bleak, and his parents were called into his hospital room repeatedly to issue their final goodbyes. Now, five years later, he plans to finish school at Boise State. Even with his wife, Jill, by his side, he strives to be as capable and independent as he was before.
The world of adaptive sports has helped.
"That's what brought me back," he said. "That's what made me back into me."
A decade of opportunities
Adaptive Adventures, which helps host the camp with local organizations Access Anything and Steamboat Adaptive Recreational Sports, is celebrating its 10th year. The Wounded Warrior program has been a big part of every one, Executive Director Joel Berman said, and it's been a cornerstone of all five Steamboat camps.
"We hope to be back next year," Sarah Wade said with a bright smile. "When you have people around that have normalized their injuries, that helps, to see people that have already walked this road and moved on."
Greene, even if he's past the "wow, I did it" moments, found inspiration, as well.
He said sports and camps like Steamboat's helped him re-enter the world after his life nearly ended. It's a sensation he's eager to pass along.
"Now, I'm starting a nonprofit adaptive sports program, too," he said. "Boise is lacking in that area."