Combat veteran with PTSD finds strength and relief in Valor Games
In a few days, about 125 athletes will gather in the Triangle for the Valor Games Southeast, a competition for disabled veterans and active military.
Among them will be Army veteran Gordon Jeans of Apex. He’s eager for a second appearance at an adaptive sports event that last year helped him expand his independence.
He found the Valor Games through a Department of Veterans Affairs recreation therapy program that linked him to Bridge II Sports, a Durham nonprofit that on May 22-25 is hosting the event for the fifth year.
“It sounded like three or four days of a different environment with low stress,” Jeans, 59, said, “so I decide it could be fun. And it was.”
He even navigated reaching his hotel room and accommodating his service dog.
“It was the first time I ever went out and did anything since I’ve been in a wheelchair ... I did OK,” said Jeans, who also drove a van outfitted for the power chair he uses because of a spinal cord injury.
Entrants choose five of the 11 sports. The N.C. State graduate, who served in the armor division in tanks and became a staff sergeant, will try boccia, table tennis and sitting shot put. The former bowhunter will try archery, too. And, of course, air rifle, using an event-supplied standard air rifle with an iron keyhole sight on the 10-meter course.
“Air rifle is by far the thing that keeps me coming back,” said Jeans, who also serves as an instructor in basic law enforcement courses and related instruction in the Triangle. “I’m … scoring better than I was last year, so hopefully it will be good enough to place this time.”
Bridge II Sports, with a staff of nine, has mustered close to 400 volunteers from corporations, universities and community organizations to support entrants from as far away as Colorado, New York and Puerto Rico.
The competitors connect through their military service, said Michael Atkins, one of Bridge II Sports’ three program coordinators.
“These guys share some stories and experiences,” Atkins said. “I love just hanging out with them.”
Opening ceremonies are 6-8 p.m. May 22 at the DoubleTree by Hilton RDU/RTP in Durham.
Air rifle, sitting volleyball and boccia take place 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m. May 23 at the University of North Carolina’s Dean Smith Center in Chapel Hill.
On May 24 from 8:30 to 3, Cameron Indoor Stadium and K-Ville at Duke University in Durham will host archery, indoor rowing, powerlifting, table tennis and wheelchair basketball.
On May 25 from 8:15 to noon, Lake Crabtree County Park in Morrisville will host cycling, shot put and kayaking.
To learn more or sponsor an athlete, go to www.bridge2sports.org/valor-games-southeast.
Meeting: The N.C. Marine Fisheries Commission at 9 a.m. Thursday starts the second of two days of meetings at the BridgePoint Hotel & Marina, 101 Howell Road, New Bern. Find the agenda at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/mf/05-2017-briefing-book.
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