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Brothers in arms reunited for the first time

Retired Staff Sgt.Brian Isenhour smiles as he gets ready to snowboard March 30, 2010, during the 24th National Disabled American Veterans Winter Sports Clinic in Snowmass Village, Colo. Sergeant Isenhour is an Air Force veteran. The event is sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Disabled American Veterans. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Desiree N. Palacios)

Retired Staff Sgt.Brian Isenhour smiles as he gets ready to snowboard March 30, 2010, during the 24th National Disabled American Veterans Winter Sports Clinic in Snowmass Village, Colo. Sergeant Isenhour is an Air Force veteran. The event is sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Disabled American Veterans. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Desiree N. Palacios)

Retired Staff Sgt.Brian Isenhour is assisted by Mark Lozano as he tries his hand at snowboarding March 30, 2010, during the 24th National Disabled American Veterans Winter Sports Clinic in Snowmass Village, Colo. Sergeant Isenhour is an Air Force veteran and Mr. Lozano is a snowboard instructor. The event is sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Disabled American Veterans. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Desiree N. Palacios)

Retired Staff Sgt.Brian Isenhour is assisted by Mark Lozano as he tries his hand at snowboarding March 30, 2010, during the 24th National Disabled American Veterans Winter Sports Clinic in Snowmass Village, Colo. Sergeant Isenhour is an Air Force veteran and Mr. Lozano is a snowboard instructor. The event is sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Disabled American Veterans. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Desiree N. Palacios)

Retired Airman 1st Class Brandon Gauvreau is assisted with his helmet and goggles at the staging area March 29, 2010, during the 24th National Disabled American Veterans Winter Sports Clinic in Snowmass Village, Colo. Airman Gauvreau is an Air Force veteran. The event is sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Disabled American Veterans. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Desiree N. Palacios)

Retired Airman 1st Class Brandon Gauvreau is assisted with his helmet and goggles at the staging area March 29, 2010, during the 24th National Disabled American Veterans Winter Sports Clinic in Snowmass Village, Colo. Airman Gauvreau is an Air Force veteran. The event is sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Disabled American Veterans. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Desiree N. Palacios)

Tony Peters (from left) and Linda Tomsevics assist retired Airman 1st Class Brandon Gauvreau as they approach the ski lift March 29, 2010, during the 24th National Disabled American Veterans Winter Sports Clinic in Snowmass Village, Colo. Airman Gauvreau is an Air Force veteran. Mr. Peters and Ms. Tomsevics are ski instructors for the winter sports clinic. The event is sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Disabled American Veterans. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Desiree N. Palacios)

Tony Peters (from left) and Linda Tomsevics assist retired Airman 1st Class Brandon Gauvreau as they approach the ski lift March 29, 2010, during the 24th National Disabled American Veterans Winter Sports Clinic in Snowmass Village, Colo. Airman Gauvreau is an Air Force veteran. Mr. Peters and Ms. Tomsevics are ski instructors for the winter sports clinic. The event is sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Disabled American Veterans. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Desiree N. Palacios)

Linda Tomsevics and Tony Peters assist retired Airman 1st Class Brandon Gauvreau as they ski March 29, 2010, during the 24th National Disabled American Veterans Winter Sports Clinic in Snowmass Village, Colo. Airman Gauvreau is an Air Force veteran. Mr. Peters and Ms. Tomsevics are ski instructors for the winter sports clinic. The event is sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Disabled American Veterans. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Desiree N. Palacios)

Linda Tomsevics and Tony Peters assist retired Airman 1st Class Brandon Gauvreau as they ski March 29, 2010, during the 24th National Disabled American Veterans Winter Sports Clinic in Snowmass Village, Colo. Airman Gauvreau is an Air Force veteran. Mr. Peters and Ms. Tomsevics are ski instructors for the winter sports clinic. The event is sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Disabled American Veterans. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Desiree N. Palacios)

SNOWMASS VILLAGE, Colo. (AFNS) -- Retired Staff Sgt. Brian Isenhour and retired Airman 1st Class Brandon Gauvreau had never met each other before, but the two had more in common than they knew.

Both incurred traumatic brain injuries while on active duty and both attended the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic in Snowmass, Colo., for the first time this year.

But before the two reached the top of the mountain in Snowmass, they had other hills to climb.

Airman Gauvreau was assigned to the 62nd Security Forces Squadron at McChord Air Force Base when he said tragedy struck July 19, 2007.

"I had been having headaches," Airman Gauvreau said. "I took some (ibuprofen) and tried to go to sleep. The pain was so immense I felt like Oh my God, I'm about to die.

Airman Gauvreau said he had to keep taking more and more medicine and the pain kept worsening. He asked his girlfriend at the time to call an ambulance for him. Once he finally convinced her this wasn't a joke, she told him to hang up the phone and call 911 immediately.

"So I hung up the phone and called 911," he said. "By that time I was pretty much out of it because there was so much pain and confusion; I didn't even know my surroundings anymore. I just said (to the 911 operator) 'Look my head hurts and I feel like I'm about to die.' They couldn't really understand me because my speech was so impaired. I had to repeat the address four or five times and finally gave up because I felt like all hope was lost and hung up the phone."

He said the operators called him back and were finally able to get the address and then he passed out. When the emergency medical technicians arrived he was incoherent and bleeding profusely from the nose.

Once at the hospital, the doctors confirmed that the 19-year-old Airman had had a stroke.

He was in a coma for three months.

"When I woke up I didn't know my surroundings, didn't know who I was," Airman Gauvreau said. "The only person I remembered was my girlfriend at the time. The first question I asked her was 'Am I still alive?' When she said yes, I started crying a little and I said I shouldn't have been. I've been in constant rehab ever since."

In 2004, Sergeant Isenhour was going on with business as usual as the supply sergeant for the 510th Fighter Squadron at Aviano Air Base, Italy.

"My accident happened when I was on the way to work," he said. "They have no idea what happened or why it happened but I (drove) into a tree and the passenger-side door came into the car.

Sergeant Isenhour said his body went forward and he hit his head on the steering wheel and then as the force pushed him back, he hit the back of his head on a cross beam, leaving him with a left orbital fracture.

"I was in a coma for 27 days, I believe," he said. "They have no idea why I was in the coma. I had no swelling on the brain, nothing. I was just in a coma."

He was transferred from an Italian hospital in Pordenone to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

"That's were I really woke up," Sergeant Isenhour said. "I went to therapy there and therapy everywhere."

He still continues his therapy.

Despite the medical obstacles each of them have faced, they both made it to the mountain here.

"When they first told me about the winter sports clinic I thought I would be better off going, just to get some new experiences and to see Colorado," Airman Gauvreau said. "Colorado is a pretty fun place. It's a great experience."

"I've been up on another hill in Pennsylvania, so I was feeling pretty good to come here," Sergeant Isenhour said.

Even though he is still undergoing therapy, Sergeant Isenhour said his disability has helped him become more physically active.

"I didn't do anything really before my injury except go home eat and sleep and wake up to go to work," he said. "Now I do things I never would have though of. I kayak, snowboard, go horseback riding and a bunch of other things."

And he still continues to challenge himself.

"They wanted me to try skis," Sergeant Isenhour said. "'I said fine, I'll try it.' I tried it for two weekends and then said, 'Forget you, I'm going back to the (snowboard).' I feel that the board is harder to stand on and do the edging with than on skis and I wanted to challenge my balance and everything else."

Airman Gauvreau skied for the first time in his life at the clinic this year.

"It was pretty fun," he said. "I was nervous, but overall it was really fun. I used the slider skis. My balance on it was a little bit off, but knowing (instructors) were going to take care of me and not let me fall and stuff made me comfortable with it."

Besides honing their skiing and snowboarding skills, the Airmen got another benefit from the winter sports clinic: camaraderie.

"It's really nice to hear there are other people in our situations," Sergeant Isenhour said.

"It's awesome!" Airman Gauvreau said.

Now that the clinic has begun to wrap up, the two have begun planning for next year.

"I don't know about the winter sports clinic next year, but I've been hearing about the summer sports clinic," Airman Gauvreau said. "I want to get some of my family members to get out and volunteer next year and to help out with the organization and have as much fun as possible."

Sergeant Isenhour said his goal for next year is to snowboard unassisted.

The Airmen agreed, disabled veterans who are apprehensive about attending the clinic should just take the plunge.

"You've got to try everything at least once," Sergeant Isenhour said. "That way you know if you like to continue to do it or not."

"Everything's all experimental with (the clinic)," Airman Gauvreau said. "If you see something new, you gotta try it at least once. Even if it's the most foreign food in the world, you gotta at least try it."

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