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U.S. Air Force Reservist Aims High at Annual Winter Sports Clinic

By Medina Ayala-Lo

SNOWMASS, Colo. – For U.S. Air Force Reserve Citizen Airman Maj. Monica Riggs, “aiming high” isn’t a belief that’s reserved for the uniformed version of herself. Instead, it’s a sentiment that guides her life. Throughout the week of April 1 – 7, the wife and mother of three transformed words into action as a participant  at the 38th annual National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic.

“This is a great opportunity to try something new,” Riggs said. “I had only been skiing a handful of times pre-diagnosis and I definitely wasn’t seeing any black diamonds. Nonetheless, I’m super happy to have this opportunity to challenge myself.

”Riggs primarily receives health care from the Wichita VA Healthcare System, but she also receives specialty services from the St. Louis VA Healthcare System. Thanks to a recommendation she received from her physical therapist at the latter, the Phillipsburg, Kansas native is participating in the Winter Sports Clinic for the first time this year.

“I didn’t do any research before coming here so I came without any pre-conceived notions,” Riggs shared. “So far this experience has been a 10 out of 10 – everything we’ve needed, we’ve received.

”Riggs has served as a pilot in the U.S. Air Force Reserves for 18 years and counting. During that time, she flew approximately 100 combat missions while raising three daughters and winning Mrs. Kansas United States 2018.

Just one year after earning her crown, Riggs received a diagnosis that changed her life.

“[My husband and I] didn’t have neurosarcoidosis on the table because, we didn’t know what it was,” Riggs shared. “It was definitely a scary time, but we were super lucky to be referred to a neurologist who provided a diagnosis which helped us determine how to move forward.”

Neurosarcoidosis is a chronic inflammatory disorder that affects the nervous system, For Riggs, the disorder  manifests itself as limited range of motion on the left side of her body. Not every day is sunny but on murky days, Riggs recalls the commitment she made to her family and there’s a break in the clouds.

“Even through the most challenging times, my husband has remained a huge support system. I don’t know where I’d be without him,” Riggs shared. “My girls keep me going daily and I’m excited to show them that just because you have a different circumstance doesn’t mean you can’t do something.”

Although life post-diagnosis comes with its challenges, Riggs remains determined not to let her condition define her.

“Being able to meet Veterans who have similar stories is huge and mentally, it’s super important for people to have that resource,” Riggs said. “It’s been great witnessing how other people have persevered through their circumstances. Everybody has their story so, write your own.”

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