Andy Marshall, Commander

The moments that remake us

Just as our experiences in uniform vary, so do our illnesses and injuries. There is one thing, though, that we likely all share when it comes to our respective recoveries: a moment of epiphany when we knew that, although we may never again be the same, we would be OK in our new normal.

For me, that moment came when my phone rang more than four years after I was injured in Vietnam. Then-DAV National Service Director John Keller was on the other end of the line and offered me a job as a service officer. After a lengthy job search with no luck, I knew in that moment that my future was brighter than it had once seemed. With the birth of my daughter only two weeks away, I knew I would have both the means to provide for my family and a renewed sense of purpose in life.

Throughout more than four decades serving my fellow veterans as a benefits advocate, the most heartening aspect was witnessing others have these epiphanies as well. Whether it came in the form of breaking the news of a favorable VA disability claim or seeing someone else gain meaningful employment, observing these moments always reinforced the value of DAV’s mission.

I know from firsthand experience that recovery isn’t solely physical. In many ways, mental healing is even more important. Feelings of uncertainty, inability and uselessness can often creep into the minds of those who have experienced a life-altering injury or illness, and those unwanted thoughts can lead to the unimaginable. That’s why it’s important to do all we can to assist our brothers- and sisters-in-arms in regaining as much of what has been lost as possible.

In all my time with the organization, I have seen no better singular event that helps veterans see the light of possibility than the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, which returned to the mountains of Snowmass, Colorado, in March after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic. Co-presented by DAV and the Department of Veterans Affairs, the clinic gives disabled veterans the opportunity to participate in a wide range of adaptive winter sports activities and proves to participants that they’re able to continue partaking in the physical activities that once seemed vanquished by injury.

I will never forget the smiles I saw on the faces of those experiencing something that once seemed out of reach. I will never forget hearing the gratitude they had for all the amazing volunteers who made it possible. And I will never forget witnessing the moments when they realized things were going to be OK—because that is the biggest victory we can help America’s disabled veterans achieve.

 

If you want to find out more about the National Commander, you can find his biography here.