Injured Veterans Seek Freedom and Thrills on the Water

Former Staff Sgt. Patrick Crockett, Sr. took up water skiing after a neck injury disabled him.

Putting injured veterans back into sports they played prior to their injury or getting them to try new sports is Jamie Kaplan’s goal. He is a recreational therapist at Tampa’s James A. Haley VA Hospital and coordinates the adaptive sports programs.

“You’re looking at a group of ultra-competitive men and women,” Kaplan said. “They got into the military because they like being outdoors, they like being active, they like doing sports and we want to show them that post-injury they can continue to do those things.”

Volunteers from UCanSki2 attach a seat frame to a water ski for the next veteran ready to take to the water. The volunteer group, based out of Winter Haven, co-sponsors close to a dozen adaptive water ski events a year.

More than three dozen veterans signed up to ski Sunday at the Adaptive Water Ski Expo on Seminole Lake in Pinellas County.

Kaplan said water sports are an excellent way to get injured veterans reintegrated into sports.

“Everyone is equal on the water,” Kaplan said adding that adaptive equipment allows even quadriplegics mobility to water ski.

Former Army staff sergeant Patrick Crockett, Sr. had never gone water skiing until after being injured. It seems counter-intuitive that he would try a sport like that after an injury, but he said he challenged himself because he was “sick and tired of feeling sick and tired.” Continue reading

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