"Friendships are built through participation and the friendships you make here last forever".
Robert "Bob" Haas
2019 Participant Bio
Robert "Bob" Haas, a retired U.S. Navy Supply officer and Vietnam veteran, screamed in agony while attending the Summer Sports Clinic in San Diego, CA, when he was approached by a professionally dressed man he did not recognize. The man asked him why he was yelling in pain. After a 45 minute conversation, the man left Bob his card and let him know that he was going to take of him. That man was the Former Under Secretary for Health, Dr. David Shulkin. Shulkin, then the Secretary of Veteran Affairs, personally helped Bob get his life back.
Bob lost his left leg above the knee due to blood clots and four years after surgery, continued to cause extreme pain. “He diagnosed me right then and there with neuroma. He emailed me and got me in touch with the right people to help fix me,” Haas said. Two months later, Haas underwent surgery at the Columbus Veterans Affairs Medical Center to correct the neuroma in his stump. “[Dr. Shulkin] focused on treatment and results. He restored my life,” he said. “I think David Shulkin would help any veteran in pain. He would stop and make sure they’re taken care of. He is a doctor and right kind of leader for VA.”
Like the Summer Sports Clinic, Bob can now enjoy the events hosted by the VA. He participates as often as possible. At the Winter Sports Clinic, he credits meeting Teresa Parks for his interest in winter sports. “I met Teresa and she was so welcoming and warm. The [Winter Sports] Clinic truly is a miracle on the mountainside.”
Restoring his life and getting active again are main priorities in Bob’s life these days.
He wants other veterans to use the adaptive sports programs offered by VA, so they can heal like he has.
“The Clinic is a safe environment for Veterans to get off the couch and onto the playing field. It is about wellness, not just sports. There are no medals for fastest racer, there are awards for most improved, but you have to get off the couch first,” Haas said.
The Winter Sports Clinic made such an impact on his life that he created an adaptive sports program at home. With help from the Columbus VAMC, disabled veterans receiving care from the VA can enjoy a variety of adaptive sports including sled hockey, yoga, swimming and rowing among others – for free. Bob feels strongly that veterans need an outlet to get active and the VA is the right place to start.
In his not so spare time, Bob volunteers as a peer counselor at the Columbus VA and Amputee Coalition. He sits on the Delta Airlines Disabilities Board of Directors, as well, helping advocate for travelers with amputations. His role in these different organizations has led to a countless number of friends, especially at the Winter Sports Clinic.
“When you come to a VA event, you meet other people from the VA who the VA has helped adapt to their injury,” Bob said. “Friendships are built through participation and the friendships you make here last forever".
These days, Bob and his service dog Gracie come back to the Winter Sports Clinic every year. He meets up with old friends and skies freely down the Rocky Mountains. “Before my amputation, I used to run marathons. Now, I am just as active,” Bob explained. “I consider myself a walking success of these events.”