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USMC Veteran Finds Camaraderie, Embraces Challenges on the Mountainside

U.S. Marine Corps Veteran Erik Jansson participates in a game of sled hockey during the 38th annual National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, which took place in Snowmass, Colo., from April 1 – 7, 2024. (Photo by Axel Villacis-Maldonado, VA Media Team)

By Medina Ayala-Lo, Winter Sports Clinic writer

SNOWMASS, Colo. – If life has taught anything to U.S. Marine Corps Veteran Erik Jansson, it’s that the only measure of control we have lays in the choices we make. So, from April 1 – 7, Jansson is choosing to live his life to the fullest as he returns to Snowmass for the third time to compete in the 38th annual National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic.

“I’m really happy to be back because this event is phenomenal,” Jansson shared. “I learned how to sit ski the first year I came here. Being on the slopes and having the ability to turn and steer is an amazing experience.”

Jansson, who entrusts his care to the Eastern Colorado VA Healthcare System, learned about the Winter Sports Clinic from the facility. When he discovered recreational therapy was available to him, it felt like the perfect addition to the care he was already receiving.

“I’ve gotten two hand-cycles through the VA, which I’m grateful for because it helps keep me moving,” said Jansson. “I want to stay as active as I can for my wife and son. When I came to the event previously, I skied and cycled but this year, I’m looking forward to learning how to play sled hockey.”

Prior to becoming a cold weather-athlete, the Bailey, Colo., native was stationed in Washington, D.C., at 8th & I, from August 1984 – August 1988. Jansson’s time at the U.S. Marine Corps’ oldest barracks, which is a national historic landmark, instilled a penchant for service that carried him through a 26-year career as a deputy sheriff.

I joined the Marine Corps because I wanted to be one of the best,” Jansson said. “After leaving active duty, I decided to join the sheriff’s department. I enjoy serving because there are those who can’t take care of themselves, and I feel that it’s my duty to look out for them.”

With 30 years dedicated to serving others, Jansson was reluctant to let the diagnosis he received while still working in law enforcement, end his commitment.

“When I was initially diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), my neurologist advised me not to say anything to my employer,” Jansson said. “I kept working, but eventually I reached a point where I knew I had to ask for a reasonable accommodation. Adjusting to change was frustrating and it has been challenging, but staying active has helped me adjust to a new normal.”

Twenty-five years after initially being diagnosed with MS, Jansson’s mobility has changed but his zest for life remains unaltered.

“I think Veterans are some of the best people in the world because they volunteered to keep our country free,” he said. “Being here gives me an ability to explore other activities and be more active and independent. And to be able to do that while surrounded by my brothers and sisters in arms is a great feeling.”

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