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Marine Veteran is ‘free’ on slopes

In spite of a wound that could have killed him, Iraq War Veteran Colin P. Smith is hitting the slopes.

The medically retired Marine lance corporal is skiing at the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic in Snowmass, Colorado.

Smith, 34, said he was struck in the head by a sniper’s bullet in 2006 in Iraq.

“I was in a Humvee, and a gun turret, and yeah,” Smith said.

The northern Ohio resident was partially paralyzed on the right side of his body by the round that pierced his helmet. Smith said he can walk, but that he cannot use his right arm. His speech is affected by aphasia, a partial loss of ability to express himself using spoken words.

Smith will be returning to the clinic, which is co-presented by DAV (Disabled American Veterans) and the Department of Veterans Affairs, for a second time.

The VA’s skilled adaptive sports professionals find ways to allow everyone to participate, he said. One of the nurses from his rehabilitation in Minnesota was part of the medical crew the last time he was at the clinic. That made for a special reunion, he said.

Newcomers to the clinic should hydrate, and be open to new possibilities, Smith said.

At home, just west of Cleveland, Smith works with local adaptive groups to ski on what are some smaller hills compared to Colorado. On the slopes, Smith said he only feels one thing.

“I just feel free,” he said.

His mother, Melissa Smith, said her son was always a daredevil. Adaptive skiing takes skill, and you can fall, so successfully going downhill gives a sense of accomplishment, she said.

“It’s just the smiles on his face is why we’re going back,” she said.

“DAV and the VA empower Veterans to challenge themselves at the clinic to show the world and themselves that they are resilient and powerful,” said DAV National Voluntary Services Director John Kleindienst.

“Our Veterans fought for their freedom, and an injury or illness does not stop our determined heroes from being self-reliant and striving to live their lives in the most independent way possible,” Kleindienst said. “This clinic is a place where Veterans are inspired to break through perceived limitations.”

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