America has been involved in the recent military conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan for over 10 years. During that time Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) have been used against our U.S. military personnel extensively.
New medical techniques have significantly increased the survival rates of injured soldiers. The result has been a large increase in U.S. troops coming home alive with lost limbs and other life-altering physical and psychological injuries. Limb amputation rates have been more than twice as frequent in Iraq and Afghanistan than previous conflicts. Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) afflict hundreds of thousands of veterans.
The “signature wound” to our soldiers has become two legs blown off at the knee or higher with substantial pelvic and genital injuries, often missing fingers, hands, and arms. There were over 1,600 amputations of varying degree suffered by U.S. soldiers from 2001 to September 2010 alone. Soldiers may also suffer from significant or minor brain injuries and most have some form of PTSD.
Over 16,000 serious trauma injuries to U.S. soldiers occurred between 2001 and 2008, ranging from repeated stress injuries and paralysis, to missing bone and flesh due to gunshot wounds.
There are significant long term effects from major combat injuries. Injured veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), phantom limb syndrome, swelling and infections, mild to moderate traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) inability to walk, run, sleep, pick up objects, or care for their families. Because of the severe nature of many wounds, reconstructive procedures are often done later, even months or years after coming home. Physical and occupational therapy are often needed for a significant amount of time. Veterans need to learn to use prosthetic limbs, crutches, wheel chairs, and mobility vehicles. Working can be difficult or impossible, due to their injuries and the time it takes to recuperate.
The following quote from a 30-year-old Army veteran who lost his legs in an IED explosion in Baghdad in 2007 sums up what disabled vets go through:
“I went through a period of depression and hopelessness after I was released from the hospital. I had to stay in a wheelchair, and felt that I couldn’t do anything for myself. I was really, really mad. I was pretty much sitting at home all the time.”
Learning to live with physical disabilities can be very difficult for young veterans who are used to the intense daily physical activity of military service. Service disabled vets often feel depressed and confused due to lack of mobility and inability to leave home or do simple tasks they once took for granted. They worry about living life without competitive sports and other high intensity physical activities. They often lose confidence in what they can do.
Sandy Trombetta, VA Special Events Coordinator at the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic explains why competition is tremendously beneficial for disabled veterans:
“I think what they take home from this is they realize what they can do and not what they can’t do. [It] is important to them for alleviation of stress, as a way to cope, for weight control and good nutrition, and a lot of other secondary factors that are great medical outcomes. But beyond that, we know this program can help people be far more self actualized, better adjusted and more likely to be involved in the community around them when they return home at the end of the week.”
After participating in the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic, a 46-year-old veteran who lost his leg while serving in Alaska, had this to say:
“We all sit in hospitals and feel sorry for ourselves…but attending one of these programs can really turn your life around. You’ll learn how to do new things, and soon enough you’ll start to take so much pride in doing these things that you’ll turn it around into taking pride in everything else that you do.”
This is exactly what Racing4Vets is intended to achieve. Our injured U.S. military veterans need help to recover their health and live complete and enjoyable lives.
Healthy and safe competition is part of having fun, tests our capabilities, builds physical and mental toughness, and helps develop pride and self-actualization. Racing4Vets provides disabled veterans with a healthy auto racing pastime that builds their self-confidence, skills, and a feeling of being part of a competitive team. We prove to disabled veterans that they can compete and win in amateur auto racing, have fun, and achieve a lifetime full of success.