Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Surf?s up for disabled vets

WRAP helps with Operation Restoration

Express Staff Writer

Photo courtesy Dez Cobb During a recent clinic for wounded veterans, Chad Jukes, of Logan, Utah, walks along the beach in Pismo, Calif.

For the second consecutive year, 12 disabled veterans headed for the beach, and a Wood River Valley-based program helped send them there.

The group went from Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas to Pismo Beach, Calif., to train with surfing champion Rodney Roller and surfers from the Billabong Camps Program, Operation Comfort, the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association and Wood River Ability Program, based in Ketchum.

The weeklong event, called Operation Restoration, hosted soldiers and Marines who'd lost limbs or were burned while serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Wood River Ability Program Executive Director Marc Mast was one of the volunteers on the trip. Out of the dozen participating vets, at least two will come to Sun Valley this winter for additional rehabilitation.

"Brandon Adam, from Sandpoint, Idaho, was there," Mast said. "He's coming here to ski over Christmas. He mono-skis. (Before the war) he was an avid skier on Schweitzer Mountain.

"Nathan Lynch, from California, came with his wife and 4-month-old child. He's being redeployed in two weeks. He's not very happy about it. He was badly burned by a live wire."

Mast pointed out that Lynch was hit with 20,000 volts for three and a half minutes before the wire was removed.

Another of the surfers, Chad Jukes, is from Logan, Utah. He is working with coaches from the U.S. Disabled Cross Country Ski Team.

"He's also a rock climber and a mountain biker," Mast said. "He came here for the raft trip in July."

The trip on the main Salmon River was Jukes' first following his below-the-knee amputation. Since then, he's pursued a number of activities.

"He's definitely coming to our cross-country ski camp in February and will come to do possibly alpine and cross country before that," Mast said. "He's only three hours away and expects to be out of the military by December."

Aside from the surf trip, Mast made an important side trip to California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo. As a representative of the U.S. Disabled Ski Team, he visited the Mechanical Engineering Department.

"We're working on building a more efficient cross-country sit-ski and alpine skis," Mast said. "They hope to have prototypes by this spring."

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