CHICAGO (CBS) — Wounded veterans were spending a few days biking, sailing, and water skiing around the Chicago area as they look forward to attending the Air & Water Show on the lakefront.
WBBM Newsradio’s Terry Keshner reports their wounds and their stories are all different, but they share a healing process: the Wounded Warrior Project.
Judy Brown rode a recumbent bike along the lakefront at Burnham Harbor near Soldier Field.
“I was stationed in Iraq in ’09. I injured my back when I was over there,” she said.
Four surgeries later, with the help of the Wounded Warrior Project, the pain is a part of her past.
David Denhardt suffers from several physical injuries, as well as post-traumatic stress, after he was injured in a rocket attack in Afghanistan while serving in the National Guard in 2012.
He was biking through Chicago with fellow Wounded Warriors and his service dog, Tank.
“She’s a 3-year-old golden retriever, and I’ve had her for a little over a year now, and she’s just amazing. She picks items up for me. She can push buttons on elevators, open doors. I spend a lot of time in a wheelchair; she pulls me around in the wheelchair,” he said.
Before joining the National Guard in 2011, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1990 to 1995.
Denhardt and dozens of other injured veterans were visiting Chicago as part of a five-day physical health and wellness event timed to coincide with the Air & Water Show. The program offers them a chance to enjoy a number of sports from sailing and SCUBA diving to cycling and kayaking.
“Their goals can vary. It really depends upon what they want to do, where they want to be, and we’re just there to encourage them, and show them ‘Hey, this is what you can do. It’s a new normal for you,’” said physical health and wellness coordinator Holly Wegman.
Seventy wounded veterans and family members were taking part in this weekend’s sporting event on the lakefront.
“Yesterday, we went up to a lake; and so we had kayaking, paddle boarding, water sports, and discovery SCUBA,” Wegman said. “Today we’re out here giving them, via Chicago, sailing and cycling.”
Denhardt said the kinship with his fellow veterans and active service members, like the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, is something unique.
“We take care of each other, and it’s just an amazing feeling, and wouldn’t give it up for the world,” he said.