NewsPalm Beach CountyRegion C Palm Beach CountyWest Palm Beach


Veterans overcoming disabilities with sports

'I seem happy, the proof is in itself. Today is amazing,' says one veteran
Posted at 8:09 PM, Jun 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-18 20:09:11-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Wounded veterans are getting active this weekend at Lake Lytal Park playing pickleball and racquetball.

Playing sports is what freedom feels like for retired Navy veteran Gabriel George.

"I seem happy, the proof is in itself. Today is amazing," said George.

In February of last year, he had his right arm amputated due to multiple injuries after a major motorcycle crash in 2008. His daughter's playful energy motivated him to get active learning how to play several sports like pickleball with just one arm

"Everything is a challenge. In an adaptive sport, you have to adapt. I can only use what I got," George said.

George got connected with different disabled veteran groups like the military adaptive court sports also known as Military Adaptive Court Sports or "macs."

This is how he met the executive director of macs, Steven Harper.

"In 2009 when I was in the Navy, I received my calling when I saw a marine who had an amputated leg, which was go teach that guy how to play a racquetball," Harper said.

Harper and his team travel all over the world teaching disabled and wounded veterans how to play racquetball, pickleball, and badminton.

"I play from a wheelchair because I have lots of veterans who are wheelchair users. Yes, I'm able-bodied, but I like teaching from a wheelchair just to teach folks that it's possible," Harper said.

Because of the pandemic there was a delay in macs hosting this event in West Palm Beach. George said this moment couldn't have come quicker.

"It's a mental release because you are out of your head and with others," said Harper. We're facing the same things and we can relate to each other. You're out of that shell and in that comfort zone. You forget that you've been out here for 2-3 hours. You're out of that shell and mental trauma. You're out of your comfort zone but creating a new comfort zone."

Military Adaptive Court Sports will continue their racquetball and pickleball event Saturday, June 19, at 9:30 a.m. at Lake Lytal Park. They're asking all veterans to come out and have some fun.