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National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic Opening Ceremony


Location: San Diego, CA

Director Stan Johnson, thank you for that kind introduction and for your superb leadership of VISN 22.

Welcome, everyone! It's great to be here on the beach in San Diego, and it's going to be a great week at this National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic! Let me acknowledge all the wonderful people who have helped to make this week possible.

* To Stan Johnson, Robert Smith, Cindy Abair, Todd Gould, Tristan Heaton, Marci Appelhanz, and the team at VA's Desert Pacific Healthcare Network for the excellent care you provide to Veterans every day, but especially for so graciously and professionally staging this week's events.

* To our co-sponsors, Help Hospitalized Veterans and the Veterans Canteen Service: let me reinforce what I said last night at the sponsors' dinner--we could not do this without you! Thank you, Mike Lynch and Diane Pitts, for your leadership and generosity.

* To all of our sponsors--corporate, VSOs, non-profit, volunteers--whom we formally thanked last evening, let me just say again that your generosity inspires us all--especially those incredible volunteers who give so selflessly from the heart.

* Also thanks to our Master of Ceremonies, KGTV News 10's Bob Lawrence. Bob, thanks for donating precious time out of an incredibly demanding schedule to support our Veterans.
* And finally and most importantly, to all our Veteran-athletes: We are so happy to see you.

This week is about you. Because of you, your service and your sacrifice, we are here not only to bask in San Diego's sunshine, but in the freedom you preserved for us through your service in uniform. You inspire all of us with your preparation, your discipline, and your determination to set new goals for personal achievement.

You made it here because you embrace the rigors and rewards of hard work.

For some of you, this is your first time at the Summer Sports Clinic. For others, you've been here before and have now returned to experience, once again, the exhilaration of competition and the healing power of camaraderie. Help us help our first-timers understand that there are no limits to what they can achieve! Some, who came here for the first time four years ago, now compete at the national level as Paralympians, hoping to make it to the next Summer Paralympics Games in London next year, or perhaps to the winter competition in Russia, in 2014. They know that most limits are self-imposed.

So, whether you get your heart pumping while cycling, feeling and reading the wind while sailing, challenging the clock and yourselves on the track, or riding the waves on a board or in a kayak, you will do things this week you may not have thought possible. They are. Don't hold back. Try everything. That's what living is about, and you have a lot of living to do.

Whatever activities you embrace here in San Diego, I can assure you that you will experience the triumph of conquering fear and uncertainty, and of mastering skills that will affect your lives long after San Diego.

Take what you learn here, continue to move forward, live an active life--not just this week, but every day hereafter. You may have been injured, but life isn't over because of that injury. It will be different, and you are going to have to work hard to regain functionality, but that's the challenge and the triumph every day. As I said earlier, every one of you has a lot of living to do.

I am glad to see so many family members here to support our Veteran-athletes. Many of the new skills they learn can be shared and enjoyed with the entire family. That makes this clinic unique. As you adjust to life after injury, there will be good days and there will be some really hard days. Be patient with one another and remember that patience and kind and encouraging words go a long way--especially with those you love most.

Again, thank you, Veteran-athletes, for your service. Make the most of this clinic's activities, and have a really great week!

May God bless those who serve and have served in uniform, and may God continue to bless this wonderful country of ours.

Thank you.

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