NEW GLOUCESTER, Maine (NEWS CENTER) - For veterans with disabilities - physical or mental - getting back to civilian life can come with complications.
But as the Veterans Adaptive Sports and Training Program in New Gloucester shows, with a little help, anything is possible.
Cross country skiing and shooting - the cold winter's day Sunday didn't stop veterans in the VAST program from some healthy competition.
For people like Jerry Wayne Padgett, a navy veteran who did tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, skiing didn’t always seem like a possibility.
“We were rescuing a Marine and unfortunately it was an ambush,” he explained about the day that changed his life forever. “Out of 23 of us, seven didn't make it home and the rest of us came home injured.”
Padgett has no movement in his legs, but has used sports for both physical and mental rehabilitation.
He's not shy about how difficult his journey has been - he says he attempted suicide four different times.
“Before my injury I was a person that could walk into a place of 100 strangers and within probably less than 15 minutes everyone knew me and I knew a majority of them,” he said, fighting back tears. “Because I was in impressionable person. After my injury, I didn't want to reach out.”
But through adaptive sports - he says he's found a new will to live.
And he thanks programs like VAST for picking him up when he falls.
“If you have the will and you have organizations like the VAST Nordic camp that are willing… Don't let stinking thinking stop you, because it will,” he said. “The mind is a very powerful thing, but the heart is stronger.”
VAST organizers at Pineland Farms say they're always looking for more veterans to join their programs.