Snowmass (near Aspen), Colorado—West Virginia veteran Adam Greathouse was recognized with the DAV (Disabled American Veterans) Freedom Award for Outstanding Courage and Achievement at the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic in Snowmass, Colo., on Friday, March 31, 2017.
In 2001, the Army veteran suffered a severe traumatic brain injury and major damage to his lungs and other internal organs due to toxic exposure while deployed to Kosovo in the Balkan Peninsula.
His prognosis was bleak—within 24 hours, doctors expected he would die. A flag was sent to his mother’s house to be draped over his coffin, and a warrant officer was dispatched to escort his body home.
Though he lost his left lung and suffered severe damage to his right lung and heart, Greathouse beat the odds and survived. He was in a coma for two months, and had to relearn how to walk and write. The years following his injury were grim. For a time he was homeless, living in his vehicle or surfing couches. He was on his way to becoming part of a daunting statistic.
“I hated life,” said Greathouse. “I felt like I was a burden and just existing, and that’s when I started contemplating taking my own life.”
At his mother’s urging, Greathouse—who struggled with alcohol abuse and depression for a decade—sought help at the Huntington Veterans Affairs Medical Center in West Virginia. In 2012, he attended the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic co-hosted by DAV and the VA.
“My life changed forever,” Greathouse said of his time at the clinic. “I took all the stuff I’ve learned here and taken it home and applied it to my own recovery process.”
The clinic has helped Greathouse find new motivation for life, which includes bringing his experiences to other veterans recovering at the Huntington VAMC.
“They’re not here and they’re not getting to experience this,” he said of the clinic. “But that doesn’t mean that they’re left behind because I’m there to help them.”
“He would drive two hours to come here, even on days when he wasn’t scheduled,” said Deborah Brammer, a representative from the Huntington VAMC. “He’s all over the medical center, helping veterans get to where they need to be, pushing wheelchairs and he always has a smile on his face.”
Greathouse said he makes himself constantly available to veterans and their families.
“Stories like Adam’s show what this clinic is all about,” said DAV National Commander Dave Riley, who is a Coast Guard veteran, quadruple amputee and fellow clinic participant. “It starts with your own recovery, but it quickly becomes about showing other veterans that a fulfilling life is possible after you’ve been injured. That’s the spirit of the event and what the Freedom Award signifies.”
Despite his remarkable dedication to fellow veterans, Greathouse insists he is no hero.
“I’m just a regular guy that went through what he had to go through to survive,” he said. “Now, after the Winter Sports Clinic, I just go every single day as hard as I can and enjoy life.”
The National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic is facilitated in partnership between the Department of Veterans Affairs and DAV. It is made possible through generous donations by individuals, corporations and charitable organizations. Every year, one participant is chosen for the DAV Freedom Award for Outstanding Courage and Achievement. This award is given to the Veteran whose bravery sets an example for all participating heroes. It recognizes the veteran who takes a giant step forward in the rehabilitation process and whose attitude embodies the spirit of the event.
NOTE: B-roll of Greathouse participating in the event is available upon request. Greathouse will receive the award on March 31. He will be returning from Colorado on Saturday evening. Media who wish to cover his return can contact Debbie Brammer, Public Affairs Officer, VA Medical Center Huntington, West Virginia, at (740) 727-5857 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
DAV empowers veterans to lead high-quality lives with respect and dignity. It is dedicated to a single purpose: fulfilling our promises to the men and women who served. DAV does this by ensuring that veterans and their families can access the full range of benefits available to them; fighting for the interests of America’s injured heroes on Capitol Hill; providing employment resources to veterans and their families and educating the public about the great sacrifices and needs of veterans transitioning back to civilian life. DAV, a non-profit organization with 1.3 million members, was founded in 1920 and chartered by the U.S. Congress in 1932. Learn more at www.dav.org.
About the Department of Veterans Affairs:
Serving Veterans and their families, VA’s mission is to fulfill President Lincoln’s promise “to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow and his orphan” by serving and honoring the men and women who are America’s veterans. The United States has the most comprehensive system of assistance for veterans of any nation in the world. For more information, please visit www.va.gov.