NEW GLOUCESTER, Maine —
With little to no snow at Pineland Farms earlier this week, Friday’s snowstorm was a blessing for one group of veterans.
The Veterans Adaptive Sports and Training (VAST) group gathered at Pineland Farms in New Glouchester Saturday for the 9th annual VAST Nordic Biathlon Camp. Veterans with a wide range of disabilities practiced their nordic skiing and rifle shooting.
“Yesterday the crew here at Pineland Farms worked really, really hard and [was] able to make it capable for us to go skiing even though Pineland Farms isn’t open today. So we have our men and woman out here practicing their skiing and shooting skills,” VAST volunteer and operations manager Robert McAleer said.
McAleer has been a full-time volunteer for the program for eight years. He’s now retired from the Marine Corps after serving for 29 years. McAleer said volunteering for the program is a very rewarding experience.
“You think about what these men and women have done for their country. Whatever I can do for them is an absolute honor and privilege,” McAleer added.
Veteran Kristina Sabasteanski is the founder and director of VAST and said that it’s important to get veterans together with support and resources.
“I just want them to realize that you can still do anything. Really anything you want. You just have to adapt. And you have the support of fellow veterans who can get it. You’re not alone and [there are] groups that will support you and have fun together.” Sabasteanski added.
The group in this year’s camp is made up of local veterans and also veterans that flew to Maine to take part in the camp and race.
It was Laura Root’s first time in the state, and she said she’s been loving it. Root is a retired Navy Lieutenant Junior Grade and has been competing in adaptive sports since 2013. She was a paralympic rifle shooting champion in 2015. Root said getting outside has been important for her after a big surgery during the pandemic.
“I was bedridden for about six months due to cancer, so this is helping me get my life back,” she added.
The adaptive biathlon relay race will be held Sunday morning.
If you’d like to learn more about the VAST program you can visit their website.