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Veterans Crisis Line Badge

Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

Remarks by Secretary Eric K. Shinseki

Opening Ceremony, National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic
San Diego, CA
September 20, 2009

Ron, many thanks for that kind introduction, and thanks especially for your leadership of Integrated Network 22 and the visionary work you all do for Veterans.

Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the 2nd National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic. My name is Ric Shinseki, and I’m proud to be one of America’s 23.4 million Veterans.

I thank the City of San Diego for allowing us to site this sports clinic here. The weather, the ocean, the ambience, the community’s welcome—what better location for Veteran-athletes to heal, rehabilitate, and compete. I am honored to be here for this very special event. Thank you all for being here as well.

Let me acknowledge our terrific master of ceremonies for the evening, KGTV News 10 Anchor, Hal Clement. Hal, you go above and beyond anyone’s expectations both by keeping San Diego’s Veteran community front and center whenever you can in your reporting, and by your deep commitment and dedication to a number of San Diego’s charitable organizations. Thank you for supporting our Veterans, VA, and your community’s most needy citizens.

I also want to thank our stalwart Special Events team—Diane Hartmann, Sandy Trombetta, Teresa Parks, and the VA San Diego Healthcare System team, led by Stan Johnson, Marvin Rydberg, Cindy Butler, and local organizing committee chair, Tristan Heaton, and all the members of the committee. Once again, you’ve put together an event that truly represents the best and highest ideals in sport and the most important objectives in VA for rehabilitative care.

Our superb National Programs and Special Events team could not have accomplished this much without the earnest and willing support of our sponsors, our volunteers, and VA’s staff from around the country. Even during tough economic times, you all have found ways not to disappoint our Veteran-athletes.

I’ve saved my biggest thanks and heartiest congratulations for the Veterans who are here this week to participate. Because of you, because of your service and your sacrifice—and the sacrifices of your families—we are able to be here in the great city of San Diego, enjoying the blessings of freedom. We are grateful to have this opportunity to support your rehabilitation.

This Summer Sports Clinic celebrates the courage, the strength, and the determination of all disabled Veterans, but especially the athletes who showed up this week—Veterans who have not allowed debilitating injury to sideline them in life. They are on offense, pushing themselves, competing, testing mind and body, and scoring victories against their disabilities. Some days those victories are big ones; on other days, lesser triumphs. But victories nonetheless; you see, every day is battle.

You get tested every day, and you either win or you give ground. Giving ground only means that you have to make it up on another day, which you do as well. Disabled Veterans show us how to live life—that life for them is not just about winning or losing at sports events. It’s about triumphing over adversity, and their triumph is in the fight each and every day to overcome physical and mental limitations.

This Summer Sports Clinic is our opportunity to allow Veteran-athletes to showcase, for this one week, their triumphs over disability during the other 51 weeks of the year. Here in San Diego, they are in their element; they have control; and they are here to compete. The rest of us need to be ready to allow them to show us their best.

Because of your willingness to sail, surf, kayak, cycle, and put your bodies to the test in track and field events, you are helping us all to redefine “disability.” You do not suffer a lack of determination or stamina for overcoming physical limitations. There are no disabilities of the spirit or limitations of will here. In your lives, head and heart count for more than muscle and bone.

You are not alone in your endeavors this week. Our Special Events team and all our volunteers are here to support you, cheer you on, and, most importantly, keep you moving forward toward the goals you have set for yourselves.

VA’s San Diego Healthcare System is one of the top rehabilitation centers in the Nation. It’s our expert in every area of rehabilitation technology. But its devotion to Veterans is no greater than the devotion of the rest of VA’s 292,000 employees across the Nation.

On their behalf, I welcome you to San Diego. Have a great week, and let’s all depart uplifted by the courage and determination of the Veteran-athletes who are here to demonstrate what living is all about.

Thank you. God bless our men and women in uniform; God bless our Veterans; and God bless our great Nation.