Put yourself in my shoes...

Put yourself in my shoes... Sgt. Maj. Darryl W. Warren reaches for the basketball during exhibition play at Fort Belvoir's Wells Gymnasium, November 7, 2017. (Photo Courtesy Whitney Delbridge Nichels)

By Annette P. Gomes, Warrior Care and Transition


ARLINGTON, Va. - You never know what someone else is going through until you put yourself in their shoes for a moment... Often times that moment needs a little motivation.

"We are motivated!" - We are motivated," chanted, 1st. Lt. Heather Bennett, Action Officer, Adaptive Reconditioning Directorate, Warrior Care and Transition.

Bennett along with more than 80 participants made up of Commanders, Command Sergeant Majors and Clinicians from Warrior Transition Battalions around the nation hit Fort Belvoir's Wells Gymnasium for a "dose" of their own medicine.

Participants gathered for a few rounds of wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball while riding a few recumbent bikes around the center. The Adaptive Reconditioning event exercise was a part of a four-day key Leadership Summit at Fort Belvoir.

Lt. Col Thierry Bras, Action Officer, Cadre Development and Sustainment, Warrior Care and Transition says it's about motivating the masses in an effort to understand our wounded, ill and injured Soldiers and what they deal with on a daily basis.

"This is so much more than a sport, it's about the spirit soul and body, when you feed those areas you're unstoppable. You can heal the body but what about the motivation to change. Activities like these give the individuals hope to make a change," he said.

Adaptive reconditioning includes physical activities including but not limited to wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball, gardening, music and photography that wounded, ill and injured Soldiers participate in regularly to support their physical and emotional well-being.

"Some of these guys are fearless because they come from an environment where they were constantly "dodging bullets" and then they come home and wonder, what do I do next?" added Steve Smutak, Site Coordinator, Fort Belvoir Warrior Transition Battalion. This shows that there is life after the military, life after the illnesses and injuries.

Adaptive reconditioning is linked to a variety of benefits including reducing dependency on pain and depression medication, developing fewer secondary medical conditions such as diabetes and hypertension and an increased level of independence.

For Army veteran, Mike Caselle, Owner and Operator of One Way or Another Adaptive Reconditioning Sports, a visit to the center was personal. In 2016, Caselle and his wife Anna lost their only daughter Sienna to suicide. His passion for helping Soldiers became his mission. His organization provides opportunities to help persons with physical mental and emotional disabilities by offering experiences such "sit water skiing" to help build confidence and self-esteem. Since Sienna's death, he has expanded his mission to include at risk veterans and teens.

"It's a void that can't go way, the loss of life. Approximately 22 Veterans and one active-duty service member take their lives every day. This is my way of giving back to the community. This helps people heal on the inside as well as the outside," he said.

The four-day Summit kicked off Warrior Care Month and included senior leadership from 14 U.S. Army Warrior Transition Battalions, Military Treatment Facilities and Warrior Transition Offices, responsible for ensuring that wounded, ill and injured Soldiers receive world class care and services.