Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Wounded vet returning to Sun Valley to train

Army Spc. Soule has job, needs home

Express Staff Writer

Army Spc. Andy Soule learned to cross-country ski on a sit-ski in Sun Valley last February. Photo by David N. Seelig

Army Spc. Andy Soule, 25, lost both legs in an explosion in Afghanistan. He returned to the United States to live in San Antonio, Texas, where he is recuperating at Brooke Army Medical Center.

Since returning home, he has raced in two 150-mile bike rides to support multiple sclerosis victims, ridden horses with the 1st Cavalry Division in Fort Hood, Texas, alpine skied in Colorado, learned to cross-country ski with the Wood River Ability Program, surfed in Pismo Beach, Calif., and kayaked with the Wounded Warrior Disabled Sports Project.

Soule, a Texas native who was a student at Texas A&M when he joined the service, is an athlete. In Pismo, he won an informal contest for the vets by doing a handstand on his board. He's been recruited by other disabled sports organizations but "he is focused on cross-country skiing," said Marc Mast, director of Wood River Ability Program, based in Ketchum. "If there has ever been anybody worthy of the opportunity to pursue their dreams, I believe it is Andy."

At the 2005 Wood River Ability Program's Cross Country Development Camp, "Andy was the star, showing great potential and a burning desire to compete," Mast said.

Following the camp, Jon Kreamelmeyer, the head coach of the U.S. Disabled Ski Team, invited Andy to train with the camp this November near Yellowstone National Park. In November, he has another quest as well. Soule will be moving to the Wood River Valley to continue training with Mast and work at the Sun Valley Nordic Center.

Several business in the valley will be helping Soule out. The Elephants Perch outdoor sports store in Ketchum will supply him with state-of-the-art racing skis and poles, and Sagebrush Arena, based near Hailey, may be providing him with travel and training funds. In May 2006 at Brooke, the Ability Program presented Soule with a new sit-ski device.

So, when he arrives next month Soule will have a lot going for him. What he doesn't have yet is a place to live. Mast said Soule needs a home that is easily accessible, preferably on a first floor. The donation of such a temporary residence for Soule would be tax-deductible through the Wood River Ability Program, Mast said. To help, contact Mast at 726-9013.

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