Good evening and welcome to the 23rd Annual Winter Sports Clinic. I am most honored to be here. Bob Hope once said, “if you haven’t got charity in your heart, you’ve got the worst kind of heart trouble.” Well, tonight I’m surrounded by a lot of healthy hearts.
I’ve looked forward to this visit for some time now. This is about celebrating the triumph of the human spirit over both physical adversity and the fear of failure. For one magical week each year, all of you succeed in transforming Aspen and Snowmass into one of the premiere sports clinics in the world. You give so many of the disabled a sense of what’s possible, if they just keep hope alive. I know of few greater gifts one can bestow on others.
Let me thank some special people, who have made this great event possible. Whether your contribution has been financial, in-kind, or you have volunteered, I can assure you that this sports clinic changes lives and yields dividends for the rest of their lives.
First, very special thanks to the Disabled American Veterans (DAV), our longstanding Winter Sports Clinic partner. People like Ray Dempsey, Art Wilson, Dave Gorman, Ed Hartman, Mike Walsh, Rick Patterson, and all of their devoted DAV volunteers help make this possible. From the halls of Congress to the slopes of Snowmass, you have done yeoman’s work in raising awareness about the issues facing disabled Veterans and have lifted their spirits in the face of life-changing injuries.
To our corporate and non-profit sponsors—we recognize the enormous value of these winter sports clinics for our disabled Veterans. We are so pleased to have you join us. I cannot thank you enough for your generosity in allowing over 400 of the undaunted—Veterans as well as those still serving—active, guard, reserve—to compete in what has become the largest disabled winter sports event in the country. Many of them will do things they thought they would never do again. Some are attempting things they have never done before. This is an exciting week of obstacles to be overcome and dreams to be fulfilled by men and women who have sacrificed so much and served so proudly in uniform.
Many thanks to the cities of Snowmass and Aspen for warmly welcoming and generously sharing the beauty of this region with us. You allow us to take that beauty and make it even more magical for a few days.
To our clinic director, Sandy Trombetta, and our hosts—Glen Grippen, Director of our Rocky Mountain Network; and Terry Atienza, director of the Grand Junction VA Medical Center—thanks for joining us. I also want to recognize Diane Hartmann and our VA National Special Events team for their year-long effort to promote and coordinate this and five other national events for Veterans—the National Wheelchair Games, the Golden Age Games, the Creative Arts Festival, the National Veterans Tee Tournament, a golf-focused event for disabled veterans, and, new in 2008, the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic.
Thanks as well to our active service members who will participate in these events; you set a positive example for us all.
For those of you who have sponsored this event in the past, welcome back. For our first time sponsors, you are about to witness a life-changing event. This week, you will witness miracles on the mountain—the opportunity for our Nation’s disabled Veterans to strive harder, to reach higher, to renew their spirit, and to bring out the best within themselves. You will see just what people can achieve on courage and determination alone. And it should not surprise us—they are not strangers to either one.
You will meet Veterans on these slopes, who return every year, and those participating for the first time. Some newcomers may take tentatively to the slopes at first, but could be flying down the difficult runs by week’s end.
You will meet Veterans from World War II, the Korean and Vietnam wars, the Gulf War, and those who recently returned from Iraq and Afghanistan. From the oldest members of our greatest generations to the youngest warriors of our latest generation, they are here to represent those who could not be here this week, or ever. Witnessing this week’s extraordinary feats will change your outlook on life. We will all be touched by a renewed sense of courage and purpose in our own lives. Because of their service, we are able to enjoy the blessings of freedom and liberty.
On behalf of the Department of Veterans Affairs and America’s 23-million Veterans, I thank you for giving these very special men and women a rare opportunity to be challenged and to grow in mind, body, and spirit.
God bless our men and women who serve in uniform; God bless our Veterans, and God bless our wonderful country.