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Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

Remarks by Former Secretary Eric K. Shinseki

2014 Winter Sports Clinic Opening Ceremony
Snowmass, Colorado
March 30, 2014

Hooah, everybody—it's good to see all of you. I know you still have team meetings ahead of you, so I'll keep this short:

First, my thanks to Mayor Bill Boineau for welcoming us and sharing beautiful Snowmass with us;

Next, my sincere thanks to Disabled American Veterans, our co-hosts once again this year—we've been doing this "Miracle on the Mountain" together for 28 years now. Thanks for the partnership;

Our sponsors—corporate, non-profit, VSO, local, and individual—we thanked them all last night, but let me, again, acknowledge their generosity and support. Thank you;

  • All our generous volunteers from across Canada and the U.S., from the Elks at the airport to the folks on top of the mountain, and everywhere in between—including our VA volunteers, professional ski instructors, adaptive sports trainers, equipment specialists, emergency medical personnel, drivers, baggage handlers, and all the others. Thank you all for donating personal time and paying your own way, many of you, to be here. We see your hearts in all of this—whether it's serving chow on the mountain, helping at the lifts, or checking people in. Thank you for all that you do;
  • Most importantly—all our Veteran and military participants. What started as a group of 90 Veterans in 1987 has grown to over 300 this year. It's good to have you in Snowmass—thanks for bringing us all back to this mountain.

In 2010, only five Veterans competed in the Paralympics in Vancouver, Canada. This year, 18 Veterans represented us in Sochi, and Marine Corps Veteran, Jon Lujan, was selected by his teammates for the honor of carrying our national colors in the opening ceremony.

Our Paralympians—both Veterans and serving military—went on to win two gold, seven silver, and nine bronze medals in Sochi—one of the gold medals came in beating Russia in hockey. Let me recognize the Paralympians who are here with us this evening. They remember this week. They have made it a point to be at this opening ceremony to help launch all of you on a fantastic week of learning, growing, mentoring, and camaraderie here on the mountain:

  • Chad Colley: Albertville, France, 1992.
  • Heath Calhoun: Vancouver, Canada, 2010; Sochi, Russia, 2014.
  • Jon Lujan: Sochi, Russia, 2014.

So, for all our newcomers to Snowmass—what led to Albertville, Vancouver, and Sochi started right here, on this mountain.

Twelve days ago, the President presented 24 Medals of Honor—three to living Veterans, and 21 posthumously. Those who were honored represented different times, different places, different generations. But they all had at least one thing in common—they never quit. They kept faith with their comrades when they were needed most.

Keeping faith doesn't end when our uniforms come off. It's central to this week, and all the other weeks in your lives—a hand to lift each other up, or that gentle shove, when needed.

So, you returning athletes, reach out to the newcomers. And newcomers, take that hand and don't let it go. It's how we've always done it.

For a number of cultures, mountains are sacred places. An ancient Pueblo saying advises, "Remember always to look to the mountaintop, for in so doing you look to greatness … Let no problem, no matter how great, …discourage you …"

But here's what's important. Except for us, this mountain would be just another high place. We give it meaning by coming here. We give it inspiration by what we do here, and we give it healing powers by letting it change the rest of our lives.

There's a lot of living left to do. Let's get on with it. Good luck. Have a great week.

God bless.

Thank you.