Nearly 30 wounded, injured and ill servicemembers from Fort Belvoir and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Warrior Transition Battalions learned the basics of archery and applied their new skills at Outdoor Recreation's indoor and outdoor ranges as part of the inaugural Adapted Archery Day, July 10.
The event was sponsored by the Fort Belvoir Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation and MedStar National Rehabilitation Network, and supported by Lancaster Archery, Team Semper Fi, USO Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore and the Yellow Ribbon Fund. It provided wounded servicemembers an opportunity to learn a new sport and expand their recreational activities as they continue down the road to recovery.
Wounded, injured and ill servicemembers from Fort Belvoir and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center learn archery skills during the Adapted Archery Day clinic, July 10, 2014 at Outdoor Recreation's archery range.
"This is the first time we've done this event and the purpose is to introduce military veterans to the sport of archery," said Pamela Lehnert, MedStar National Rehabilitation Network, Integrated Sports Program for Veterans, coordinator. "This gives them an opportunity to learn the skills and (apply them in actual target) shooting."
Special guests included Paralympian archers, Lee Ford and Eric Bennett, who spent the day providing formal instruction and advice to participants. Rich Atchison, Fort Belvoir archery instructor, and Paul Vogel, a National Field Archery Association master instructor on post, also supported the event with safety and equipment maintenance tips and one-on-one skills lessons.
Bennett, who lost his right arm at the age of 15 in an automobile accident, spoke with attendees about his accident, how he came to pursue archery against all apparent odds, and go on to qualify for the U.S. Paralympic archery team in the compound bow division and compete in Beijing in 2008.
"When I lost my arm, I had a lot of thoughts run through my head as to how this would change my outlook on things," he said, thanking the military members of the audience for their own personal sacrifices. "We share something. When I had my accident I had a really good support system in the hospital and from my Family. I was an active kid and while I was in the hospital I made a list of the things I loved to do and how I was going to do them. As I was going down the list I got to the thing that mattered to me the most -- archery. And I made a big mistake when I said, 'Well, I guess I won't ever do that again,' and 10 years passed."
Bennett's father, however, played a major role in his son's rediscovery of the sport after he saw other amputees engaging in archery using specialized tabs that enabled them to pull the string back with their teeth. The younger Bennett managed to adapt and quickly began winning local, regional and ultimately national events.
"At that point I just immersed myself in archery completely and I rediscovered my passion," he said. "I did anything and everything I possible could with it, and I made the Paralympic team in 2008. The point is we can accomplish anything we really want to. Saying 'I can't' caused me to lose 10 years of doing my favorite thing in life. So I thank my dad every day for kicking me in the backside and saying, 'We can find a way.'"
The Archery Day participants showed their own willingness to "find a way" at ODR's outdoor range. There archers shot at targets from a variety of distances downrange with compound bows and cross bows. At the indoor facility, competitors fired arrows at competition style targets while receiving guidance from some of the ablest certified instructors at Fort Belvoir.
For more information regarding Fort Belvoir's adapted archery programs, call Steve Smutak, Fort Belvoir Warrior Transition Battalion military adapted sports program coordinator, at (703) 805-6898 or email Steve.A.Smutak.firstname.lastname@example.org; or call ODR at (703) 805-3688.