Spring Valley resident Simon Jackson loves the feeling he gets through his handcycle. “I am the engine for where and how fast I go,” said the 34-year old Army Veteran. While his legs cannot take him far due to a debilitating injury, his handcycle has few limitations. So far, it’s carried him away from depression, brought about substantial weight loss, and strengthened his family’s relationship.
Following a spinal injury as the result of an accident in the back of an Army truck, Jackson had lost his will to live. He spent the next eight years in a reclusive state with little desire for community involvement or social interaction. That all changed when he got involved in a Veterans Affairs handcycling program. Jackson found a way to manage his condition and still have control over his life.
When Jackson’s children saw him competing in his first National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic (NVSSC) two years ago, they told their mother: “We have our daddy back.”
“These events are not only about overcoming physical disabilities,” said Cassie Jackson, Simon’s wife. “It’s also very emotionally healing for the families. We get to see the life spring back into our loved ones. We also get to meet other families who are going through similar experiences.”
Jackson has since competed in this year’s National Veterans Wheelchair Games, three marathons, and hopes to complete a fourth this December. His health has improved significantly since adopting handcycling as a hobby, and has lost nearly 100 pounds in the process.
He hopes to use this year’s experience at the NVSSC to inspire injured friends and other Veterans to continue their dreams in spite of whatever problems have happened.
“I know people who hate their lives because of their injuries,” said Jackson. “I want them to know it doesn’t have to be that way.”
For more information about the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic (September 18 - 23, 2011), please visit http://www.sandiego.va.gov/ssc.asp.