- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 10, 2005

SNOWMASS VILLAGE (AP) — First Lt. Jeffrey Adams skidded to a stop at the bottom of the Big Burn run, a smile on his sunscreen-lathered face as he shifted slightly on his outriggers, special ski poles given to one-legged skiers.

He was a long way from Iraq and the Army hospital where he spent weeks recovering from the bomb blast that cost him his left leg last fall.

“No one is shooting at you, trying to blow you up. All you can do is fall,” said Lt. Adams, 25, of Baton Rouge, La.

Still, for many of the more than 300 disabled veterans who attended the Department of Veterans Affairs’ 19th Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic this month, the experience was intimidating.

“I was scared,” said Sgt. Andy Butterworth, 25, of Durham, N.C., who lost a leg in a rocket-propelled grenade attack in Iraq. “You got one good leg left. What if you break it?”

Fifty-two of the combat veterans at the sports clinic were wounded in Iraq. One is a veteran of World War II’s Battle of the Bulge.

First Lt. Ed Salau, 34, of Havelock, N.C., remembers first hearing at Walter Reed Army Hospital about disabled skiing from Veterans Affairs recreation therapist Sandy Trombetta, the founder of the clinic. It was just a few days after Lt. Salau lost a leg.

“I looked around the room [at the other amputees] and I thought he must be smoking crack,” he said.

Mr. Trombetta said he is familiar with that sort of apprehension.

“Imagine going from being 10 feet tall and bulletproof to lying in bed surrounded by doctors and family and they all seem unhappy,” he said. “Even after 19 years, I am blown away every second. This place is where dreams come true.”

Lt. Salau’s wife, Terri, said she had to hold back tears when she traveled with him to the clinic and took a snowmobile ride, with her husband driving.

“He’s an inspiration to me and the kids. We are so proud of him. He’s awesome,” she said. “Who’d have thought 4 months ago that we’d be snowmobiling?” she asked.

Added Lt. Salau: “Nobody’s different on the snow. I don’t ever want anybody looking at me and saying, ‘Poor guy.’ I never hear that on this mountain.”

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