For Robert Satterwhite, the drive to enter the U.S. Army in the 1970s stemmed from a desire to do something exciting and to get out – of his hometown, that is. Now, he expresses a similar sentiment in his passion for sports – from fishing to deer hunting to skiing – to help him live an active, focused and busy life.
Robert entered the U.S. Army in July of 1975 and served 21 years as a drill sergeant, leadership school instructor and first sergeant before retiring in 1996. After his retirement, Robert began having high blood pressure problems that caused the wall of his aorta to burst. After undergoing surgery to have his aorta replaced, Robert woke up to some life-changing circumstances: he was paralyzed.
“When I was a young child, I fished whenever I got the chance,” Robert says. “After the military, that’s when I was paralyzed, and I thought it was going to end.”
Paralyzed Veterans of America stepped in to help Robert file the paperwork and navigate the process for obtaining his benefits. But what Robert did not realize at the time was that Paralyzed Veterans also would play a role in helping him adapt back into the active lifestyle he led prior to being paralyzed.
It was only after talking with a few of his new friends that Robert decided to participate in Paralyzed Veterans’ Bass Tour. “After the first time, I loved it,” Robert says, “and there’s no stopping me now.”
While his paralysis has not altered his ability to fish, Robert says he had to adapt slightly by sitting on the boat. But fishing is not the only sport Robert is active in; he also participates in skiing, deer hunting, the National Disabled Veterans winter sports clinic as well as the National Veterans Wheelchair Games.
Robert has even won a few trapshoots at the local level and often places gold at events like trapshooting or weight lifting at the Wheelchair Games, he says.
“Being active has helped me a lot,” Robert says. “It gets me out of the house and keeps me up and busy. Actually, I don’t really have time to be down.”
And it’s that mentality that Robert hopes will inspire others who are faced with similar life-changing circumstances. “I know I want to stay active,” he says. “And I want to inspire people to come aboard and show them what it’s all about in a way that can change their life as well as mine.”
Read about more Paralyzed Veterans of America members and adaptive sports
Brittany Ballenstedt is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in several publications, including Government Executive, National Journal, Technology Daily and NextGov.com.