The power of the human spirit

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Mareshah Haynes
  • Defense Media Activity-San Antonio
The human spirit is truly indomitable.

If I ever questioned that fact, the 2010 Disabled Veterans of America Winter Sports Clinic answered it for me.

During my assignment to cover the week's events March 28 through April 2 here, I saw some amazing examples of just how strong the human spirit is.

When my team and I arrived at the airport in Aspen, the veterans were already getting off of the plane, anticipating the week's sporting events, seeing old friends and meeting new ones. I helped the team of Airmen who volunteered to help disabled veterans off load the plane and a teammate and I boarded the plane with an airplane accessible wheelchair.

We arrived at the seat of an Army veteran from San Antonio. He was paralyzed from the waist down and we assisted him from his plane seat to the wheelchair. While I fastened the lap straps on the chair, my teammate fastened the chest straps and engaged the veteran in conversation. After a few verbal exchanges, my teammate asked the veteran, "So what events are you competing in?"

With a grin that spoke volumes more than his response, he said, "Whatever they let me compete in."

We rolled him down the ramp from the plane to the runway and got him situated in his own chair. He grabbed his bag, shook our hands and rolled off into the airport to begin his adventure.

After seeing dozens of these veterans with the same attitudes, it honestly began to inspire me.

These people who have incurred traumatic brain injuries, lost limbs and even eyesight didn't feel sorry for themselves. They were here proving there is life after injury. They were proving that even though life has changed, it doesn't have to stop. They were proving that the spirit is stronger than the body and it can persevere even when the body has been weakened.

Once we were on the slopes, my amazement continued. I saw a man who looked to be in his late 60s, skiing down the down the mountain. That may not be seem like anything special, until you realize that this man is a blind veteran.

I watched a newly injured veteran, medically retired at the age of 19, ski for the first time since his injury in 2007. Most young men his age are at their peak of physical health, while he has to travel hundreds of miles from his home in Washington for therapy in California. Still, he's excited to be here.

A woman who was injured in a horrific car accident while on active-duty has been attending the winter sports clinic for eight years. The doctors told her family there was a 5 percent chance she would live and if she did she would be in a vegetative state. She attributed her recovery to the Air Force doctors and the support of her family. I can't help but think an indomitable spirit has something to do with it as well.

I could go on and on about the caliber of people I've met in this short time. To know that these people are my brothers- and sisters-in-arms makes me want to go that extra mile for them.

They have truly made an impression on me and shown me just what an indomitable spirit can really accomplish.