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Thunderbolts participate in San Diego veteran clinic

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Marcy Copeland
  • 56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Thunderbolts from Luke Air Force Base assisted with the 2015 National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic in San Diego, California, from September 13 through 18.

Forty-two Airmen attended the clinic to assist disabled veterans from all over the country. The clinic gave veterans an opportunity  to challenge themselves  through education and recreational activities. Rehabilitation was promoted using summer sporting activities such as surfing, archery, sailing, kayaking, cycling and rowing.

"This experience is amazing," said Master Sgt. Brian Abel, 372nd Training Squadron, field training detachment NCO-in-charge. "There is nothing better than giving back to these veterans. They have sacrificed so much for us. It is a very rewarding and humbling experience. The clinic is all about showing these veterans that there is still life after disability. That is the main purpose of this clinic."

Veterans from World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, the Gulf War, and the wars in Iraqi and Afghanistan were in attendance. Veterans can suffer from either physical or psychological impairments or both. That was the goal of this clinic and the volunteers from Luke, was to bring veterans together and to help heal one another through group activities.

Airmen were allowed a permissive temporary duty assignment for the week by commanders to attend the clinic.

"I feel great about supporting this event, we were giving back to our own, so in many ways I felt it was our duty, " said Lt. Col. Jason Hokaj, 56th Operation Support Squadron commander. "I am a huge fitness supporter and I believe in its ability to heal people in ways that are unexpected or counter-intuitive. I also believe that people learn more from teaching and coaching than we ever learn from being taught, so it is a win-win for all involved."

As Airmen, encouragement is given to pursue volunteer opportunities to strengthen ties with the community and to let the community know the Air Force is there.

"I know that my Airmen benefited from seeing the inspirational acts those veterans displayed on a daily basis," Hokaj said. "In many cases, it's simply finding the courage to get out of bed every day.  It helps to keep us all grounded and realize what is most important in our lives."

The only cost paid for by the volunteers was transportation costs. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs paid for the volunteers' meal cards and the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel served as the host hotel providing lodging.

All around, there was support from everyone to ensure this event took place. For the Airmen from Luke, participating in this once-a-year event was a chance to give back and be there for this country's veterans.