Good evening everyone and welcome to the 26th Annual National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic! Let me acknowledge the many selfless and dedicated people, who've helped to make this week possible.
* Ralph Gigliotti, Teresa Parks, Terry Atienza and the wonderful team at VA's Rocky Mountain Healthcare Network. Thank you for taking such great care of our Veterans day-in, day-out, and for superbly staging this week's events.
* Glenn Grippen, former, long-time director of VA's VISN 19, the Rocky Mountain Network. Glenn provided superb support for the Winter Sports Clinic for many years, and he's back with us at Snowmass again this year as a volunteer. Glenn, always good to see you;
* To our co-hosts, Disabled American Veterans: We couldn't do this without you! Thank you, Don Samuels, Patrice Rapisand, Marc Burgess, Ron Minter, and your volunteer team for your leadership, your generosity, and your collaboration.
* To all our corporate, non-profit, VSO, local, and individual sponsors, whom we formally thanked last evening--Let me just reinforce that your generosity inspires our employees and volunteers to take on these projects. Thank you, once again.
* Bill Boineau, Mayor of Snowmass Village--Thanks again for welcoming us to your beautiful corner of the world.
* To all of our incredible volunteers--almost 1,000 strong, including about 175 volunteer ski instructors from across the Nation. You have our heartfelt thanks for all that you do--so sincerely, so selflessly, and so effortlessly. Could I ask all of our volunteers in attendance to stand. Please join me in thanking these extraordinary, selfless people.
* Our Paralympians--Russell Wolfe, Scott Winkler, Chris Devlin-Young, John Register, and Chad Colley. Thank you for making the time to spend with us here, where it all began for many of you. Your high achievements are examples for all of us to strive for.
* Gene Taylor passed away last week as many of you know. Gene provided tremendous support to this clinic from its inception 26 years ago, outfitting Veterans with ski equipment, clothing, and repairing that equipment at no charge. Our condolences to Gene's family. Let me ensure them that Gene's generous spirit and many contributions to the Winter Sports Clinic will be long remembered;
* Finally, and most importantly, to all our Veteran athletes--women and men who have accepted the challenge of the mountain. Welcome, we are so happy to see you.
This week is for and about you. Here on the mountain, you will do things you never thought possible. This week is about much more than learning to use adaptive skis, or snowboards, or learning to play sled hockey.
It is not about conquering this mountain. Rather, as Sir Edmund Hillary, first to scale Mt. Everest, would say, it's about conquering ourselves.
The physical effort, sheer determination, courage, and self-confidence that characterized your service in uniform came from deep within you. Well, those are the very attributes that will carry you through this week here in Colorado. More importantly, it's what will get you back into living life--or as it says in a good book I once read, "keep on livin' while you're livin'."
First-timers--there's no limit to what you can do! Some who came here for the first time four years ago now compete as Paralympians. One of them, Russ Wolfe, offered some great advice. He said, "I've been where they've been. I know how hard it is. I don't give anybody pity. I've been paralyzed for 15 years. I know these people are new injuries. I know they've come back from a war. But you know what? Life goes on. So you've got to start living again. You can't live in the past. You've got to get up and go."
I am glad that some of you brought your families with you. Their support will be invaluable as you share the skills you will be learning here this week.
Be patient. Kind words and encouragement will go a long way in helping to take what you learn here, and continuing to move forward living active lives--not just this week, but every day hereafter. You may have been injured, but life isn't over. There's still a lot of living to do for all of us. It will be different, no doubt, and you are going to have to work hard to improve functionality--but that's the challenge and the triumph every day. Keep on living while you're living. Enjoy your time at Snowmass, and have a great week!
God bless each of you. May God bless those who stand watch tonight around the world. And may God continue to bless this wonderful country of ours.