In 1978 a motorcycle known as the widowmaker left Army veteran and noted thrill-seeker Reed Weir paralyzed. Reed crashed the bike, known for having too much power and poor handling.
“I had broken my neck, and while face down in the Stryker frame at the McGuire VA hospital in Richmond, I wondered what the world ahead would hold for me,” Reed says.
Reed followed his father’s legacy of military service and enlisted in the Army in 1976, hoping to follow his passion of tinkering with cars and trucks. His recruiter assigned him to combat arms, where he served as an armed crewman on M60 tanks.
He was only two years into his beloved career when he suffered a T3-level spinal cord injury, as well as a broken neck and back.
His fearless mentality has helped him navigate his life post-accident, and it’s enabled him to do very well at adaptive sports.
PVA National Service Officer Jesse Cox, himself a paralyzed veteran, met with Reed weeks into his recovery and helped him find hope in his future. The care and attention was also beneficial for his mom and dad, who were understandably shaken by their son’s diagnosis. “It was calming for them to see a professional gentleman in a wheelchair not only walking them through the claims process, but showing them that life did go on.”
In 1981, Reed attended the first National Veterans Wheelchair Games as an observer and became interested in the range of sports available to him, and also in the equipment.
“I’ve always liked tinkering with equipment, so in the 80s, when the first dedicated racing chairs came out, I worked with a friend who was a welder to put together some three-wheel racing chairs. That was before the handcycle days, and racing chairs were so expensive,” Reed says. “I was so into equipment that I started building my own frames.”
Eventually Reed became involved in various events at the Games, including track racing, the 5K, slalom and air rifles. In 1996, his wheelchair racing performance almost earned him a spot on the U.S. Paralympic team.
In 1997 when PVA was looking for an associate sports director to lead the National Trap shoot Circuit, Reed was an obvious choice. He immediately took the job, and aside from racing and running the circuit, he also helped lead the quad rugby and bowling programs.
Reed credits adaptive sports with allowing him to live a healthy and active lifestyle, in addition to securing him fulfilling employment. “My involvement in sports allowed me to have an outlet, a positive outlook to be as involved as I wanted to be,” he says. “I definitely would not have enjoyed the life I have without sports.”
Reed is no longer able to race, so he has turned his attention to helping other disabled veterans find hope, health and healing through adaptive sports. “I want other veterans not to hesitate to get involved,” he says. “For a veteran, or even a non-veteran, I would encourage them to go the Wheelchair Games or other adaptive sports events and interact with the athletes. It can be life-changing seeing that the wheelchair can simply become part of your body, rather than just a huge ankle weight.”