Good evening, everyone--welcome. We are all here to say thank you, and to recognize your generosity. I've said thank you so many times now that it's hard to sound fresh, original, and sincere, but let me assure you my thanks are genuine. Let me begin by acknowledging some special people and organizations:
To begin--Disabled American Veterans, D-A-V--VA's long-time partner at this clinic. National Commander, Joe Johnston and Auxiliary Commander, Susan Miller, it's good to see both of you again. DAV has been our Nation's advocate for disabled Veterans for 94 years now. Thank you for your leadership and support of VA, day-in, day-out, throughout these past five years;
Besides Joe and Susan, other DAV leaders, working hard here in Snowmass, are Marc Burgess, Garry Augustine, Chad Colley, Dan Clare, Ron Minter, and a boatload of devoted DAV volunteers. Thank you, all, for your partnership;
Let me thank the rest of our volunteers who donate their time and energy--many of them serving members of the military, many others from the Elks; and still others, representatives of our sponsors. These volunteers provide incredible support to the more than 300 men and women who will test themselves this week on the mountain;
Our local VA hosts are Ralph Gigliotti, Director of our Rocky Mountain Network; Patricia Hitt, Acting Director, Grand Junction VA Medical Center, and First Sergeant Teresa Parks, who directs this clinic. They and their teams make this week happen with such precision. Thank you;
To Mike Galloucis, Jose Llamas, and the entire VA National Special Events Team, thanks for the guidance and support you provide for this clinic--every year better than the last;
VA and DAV cannot do this alone. So let me express sincere thanks to all of you who sponsor our sports clinic. This event takes place only through your generosity--whether financial, in-kind, or by volunteering. In the end, you are the ones who make this entire week a miracle for these Veterans who have voluntarily put it all on the line for the rest of us. Their service and sacrifice give us the freedom and opportunity to achieve the successes we have enjoyed in this great Nation. Your being here tonight says a great deal about what's in your heart.
This is my fourth visit to Snowmass, and the sense of anticipation is as highly-charged this time as it was the first time I visited this "Miracle on the Mountain."
Those who've been here before know what I mean. This clinic has been a proven confidence-builder since 1987. Here, the human spirit trumps adversity each and every time--prevailing over life-altering injuries. On my first visit, I stopped by to see the ski lift and encountered a scene that said it all. There, in the snow, were discarded crutches, abandoned wheelchairs, prosthetic limbs cast aside--a veritable junkyard of disabilities. Somewhere up the mountain, out on the ski trails, were the bruised bodies that were liberated, free, running wild.
That's the "Miracle on the Mountain." Lives are salvaged here, and you make it possible. Thank you for not letting hope die for any of them, but especially for the youngest, who have been carrying a load for nearly 13 years now. You are doing something noble and worthy.
So simply, thank you--and God bless.