CHICAGO (CBS) — More than 200 disabled veterans have descended on Soldier Field, to take part in the 4th annual Valor Games Midwest sporting competition.
WBBM Newsradio’s Mike Krauser reports the veterans planned to take part in three days of games that are as much about mental rehabilitation as physical – perhaps more.
Sports include shot put, archery, weightlifting, and cycling.
Partially paralyzed Army veteran and Chicago native Babette Peyton said getting active saved her life after she suffered a long-term service injury. She said she became so depressed, she was just sitting around waiting to die when the Army convinced her to get active.
She learned she’s pretty good at archery, despite being unable to move the left side of her body, by drawing the bow back with her teeth.
“I was in a nursing home, headed to hospice, and they pulled out a bow, and then they carved out some leather and put it on the string,” she said. “He said ‘Do you have any dentures?’ I said no. He said, ‘Good, because you’re going to have to pull back on this.’ He told me shoot, said ‘Don’t worry about where you’re shooting,’ and I did. I hit a bullseye, and then I realized I’m not dying.”
“I’m living, and I’m going to live, and I’m going to be promoting adaptive sports to every veteran … and any kind of disabled person I know, because they show you how you can do things. Maybe differently, but still do it, and participate in life,” she added.
She has since won eight gold medals from the National Veterans Wheelchair Games.
Fellow Army veteran Heath Calhoun, a double amputee with a similar story, won a silver medal in skiing in the Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russia, this past winter.
“What I have learned through sport is it gave me something to focus on. It gave me an ability to focus frustration, if you will, to focus my effort, to focus my energy,” he said. “It allowed me the opportunity to continue to push on, to drive on, and to show an example to my children. Through sport, I’ve gotten myself healthy again.”