Lupe Navaira Jr., U.S. Army
I participate in many of the Operation Comfort programs. Each one has helped me with either a mental or physical issue I've had. Biking helps with my overall body pain as well as gives me strength and endurance. With Yoga my back pain, PTSD and anxiety issues gain relief. Swimming works on my overall pain, anxiety and stress. Kayaking helps me with my balance and pain levels. Each of these programs have also allowed me to be in a group setting with my fellow Veterans who I can relate to. We may share our stories and experiences with one another which helps us overcome some of the mental hurdles each of us experience. The programs Operation Comfort provides have helped me tremendously in my health, mind and body. Operation Comfort is a God-Sent for me and my family. Any veteran I know that is looking for a home need not look anymore. When they find the joy Operation Comfort brings to the veteran, the veteran will keep coming back and spread the good news to others that are in need.
Ivan Perez, USMC
Sled hockey, is more than just a sport for me. It helped me realize that I had a lot more left to become a better and stronger version of myself.I went in 3 years ago, thinking it would just be cardio. Little did I know, it would be a whole lot more. Influences and experiences made me realize, that I wanted to earn the right to call myself an Olympian. Just like in the Marine Corps. I tend to do best when I need to earn something. The biggest challenge with sled hockey was simply being raised in south Texas as a Hispanic male. I never knew what hockey was or even the rules of it. The only thing I knew, was from watching the mighty ducks. Which by the way, they break a lot of rules in the movie. My biggest challenge was learning and understanding hockey. It was hard enough to learn the rules and positions. However, playing at a high speed was even more challenging. A lot of frustration turned into burnout. I wasn’t enjoying it anymore, and that is simply my fault. Hockey taught me never to do that with anything else I do in my life. One of my main goals for the season was to simply be a good player. Be in the right positions, make the right passes. Shoot to score, but most important assist with as many goals as possible. I had to learn to be patient and observant, of my teammates. I had to learn their habits, and trust my gut that I was making the best decision when I had the puck. On my last tournament. I had several goals, and a lot of the assists as well. My goal was to play the best possible defense. When I realized that I wouldn’t be playing defense. I had to adjust and shift my mindset to play my given position. Adversity was and has been a big factor for me, that came from sled hockey, and that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. The biggest experience I will forever Carry with me, will always be at the end of my second season playing. I struggle with a depression a lot, especially in the winter months. That’s the time I was deployed. My second season was the first time I didn’t break down into depression. It was all because I was so caught up on being in shape and staying hockey ready. At the end of our last game. I let my whole team know that I was grateful for them. It was the 1st year I didn’t even think about being depressed. I believe in healing through sport. Not taking pills, or using it as an excuse to be a bad person. Sled hockey is proof, of that for me. Thank you for providing this program, and allowing me to learn that there is a whole lot left that I can do to keep growing. Although my main sport is now a different sport. I assure you that a lot of the things I learned about myself in sled hockey will carry on to my current sport. Thank you.
Jen Lee, U.S. Army, Two Time Paralympic Gold Medalist
What Operation Comfort did for our local wounded and injured service members in San Antonio, Texas is something that I will never forget. I was introduced to Operation Comfort back in 2009 while rehabbing at The Center for the Intrepid (CFI) on Ft. Sam Houston, San Antonio, TX. While I was rehabbing at the CFI, I participated in many adaptive sports like wheelchair basketball, amputee golf, sitting volleyball, and sled hockey. Sled hockey is one of many therapeutic programs Operation Comfort has to offer for wounded and injured military veterans that could potentially benefit their mental, physical or spiritual health. Many programs include Automotivation, amputee cycling, and yoga. However, when Operation Comfort introduced the sport of sled hockey to me, I immediately fell in love with the sport, and I would ever imagine hockey would exist in this Texas heat! Chris Leverkuhn, one of the local wounded veterans and a staff member of Operation Comfort, asked me if I would be interested in joining the Rampage Sled Hockey Team. Now, knowing how expensive this sport can be in general especially traveling to different states to compete, I felt blessed and humbled to have veterans like Chris and Operation Comfort that would offer to cover for the entire travel just for me to compete and hopefully help us to get better individually. The Rampage Sled Hockey Team is an all military veteran team that will be traveling to different states and cities to compete against other sled hockey team in the Midwest. Not only Operation Comfort work tirelessly day in and day out to seek for potential donors, sponsors or donations that would like to support the sled hockey program, they also have done various of selfless act and support for the community of San Antonio and many other communities out there. Without Operation Comfort, I wouldn't be where I am today and I can't thank Janis and the entire staff for their unconditional support of our troops. I wouldn't have two Paralympic Gold Medals if it wasn't for OC who supported my journey to make the national team since I joined the sled hockey program in 2009. Thank you OC for believing in me. Thank you for giving me a purpose again. Thank you!
Rico Roman, U.S. Army, Two Time Paralympic Gold Medalist
Operation Comfort (OC) is the very definition of ‘take action’. They do not sit passively on the sidelines, rather they get to the heart of what a wounded veteran needs and then does everything possible to help. I was first introduced to OC when I was rehabilitating at the Centre for the Intrepid, following the loss of my left leg above the knee. Janice, and her team, introduced me to Hand Cycling, which was my first taste of adaptive sports. Ever since, sport has played a huge part in my recovery journey, keeping me strong, and physically and mentally fit. I took part in two hand-bike marathons with OC, before trying my hand at Sled Hockey. Hockey was something I had no interest in trying, however, OC saw the potential in me and encouraged me to give it a go. From my first moment on the ice I knew I had found my sport – something I was passionate about, and made me feel truly alive. OC committed fully to supporting me in playing Sled Hockey, paying for equipment, competition fees, hotels and transport costs. They even paid for me to attend the National Sled Hockey Team try-outs. In 2014, I was part of Team USA, who won Sled Hockey Gold at the 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi. Seeing Janice from OC there cheering me on, alongside my family, was such a special moment, and one I’ll treasure forever. In fact, I have OC to thank for my family being able to attend Sochi as they worked tirelessly to ensure those I care about could see me serve my country once more – this time on the ice. have continued to play with the US National Team, and hope to once more represent my country and compete for Gold at the 2018 Winter Paralympics Games in Pyeongchang. The support OC has given me goes so much further than sport. From helping me develop my auto-motive skills to taking my family and I on trips to help us heal as a family; they have been there for every step of my recovery. Janice and the OC Team are so much more than a charity – they are part of my family. I can never repay OC for all they have done for me. And it’s not just me – they have been, and will continue to be, there for so many other Veterans in my position. They walk alongside us and help us to see that we’re able to achieve anything we set our minds to. They helped me see that I am not broken, I am not disabled - rather I know that I am strong, and I am able to live beyond my injury.
Joseph Leon, U.S. Army
Operation Comfort, I cannot describe this organization in one simple comment / quote without you first knowing my background. I was an active tri-athlete. I am a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel, deploying numerous times which have had a major lifetime impact to my body, mind and spirit from injuries sustained in the line of duty throughout my 30 years of service. My injuries progressively got worse and I lost the ability to race and train. My morale and overall disposition was headed south quickly without the ability to stay physical active due to chronic pain. Operation Comfort opened my world and saved my life by introducing me to adaptive cycling through a clinic they held at the VA. They have taken me to various events all over to participate in cycling events. These events both challenged and rebuilt my spirit. I now ride and train on a regular basis, I have even been able to compete again in adaptive cycling events. The staff at Operation Comfort is beyond words, their compassion, enthusiasm, they have become like family. My fellow riders have also become family just like the military family that I left when I retired. Operation Comfort for me is beyond what words can describe, but I have tried. I would recommend this organization to anyone that needs to get active again or stay active.
Carlos M. Barrera Jr.
I consider myself to be very fortunate to be able to participate in the various activities sponsored by the wonderful and caring people of Operation Comfort. They have provided me with countless opportunities to interact and socialize with many awesome people, to go different places, and to focus on my physical well-being. Their cycling and yoga programs have afforded me the chance to progress in areas that have helped me target my disabilities. It has truly meant the world to me. The cycling program has also allowed me to increase my speed and endurance. The constant movement with the repeated motion of my legs have helped me now and it will definitely help me in the future. Yoga has been an amazing experience each and every week. It has helped me to relax and ease into things with a good sense of flow. I always leave the yoga class with high spirits and positive energy. I will forever be grateful to the all of kindhearted and incredible people of Operation Comfort. Thank you all Carlos M. Barrera Jr.
Luke McDermott, USMC, Paralympic Gold Medalist
Operation Comfort was huge for me and my recovery. They provided so many activities through sports or getaways that helped me tremendously both physically and mentally. It was great to have the opportunities to be around other veterans going through the same type of injuries. Through Operation Comfort’s programs, I was able to grow stronger both physically and mentally after my recovery. I also got to be part of some amazing events that most people would never get to experience. I was able to bike through Europe and attend the 2014 Paralympic Games in Russia. It was because of Operation Comfort that I was able to live my own Paralympic dream and become a gold medalist myself. Without the sled hockey team started by OC, I would likely have never been able to make the national team and go on to win a gold medal. Operation Comfort is one of the most amazing organizations I have ever been around, and I’m grateful to know such amazing people.
James Madison, U.S. Army
Before I came to Operation Comfort I was both a physical and mental train wreck. I was about to give up on myself and fall back into the dark place of depression. They introduced me to hand cycling. The first time out I was grinning from ear to ear like I have not done since I was a child. Everyone treated me like a long-lost friend, and they remembered my name. They gave me hope and encouragement. When I needed someone to talk to they were there for me. Today I am physically and mentally much better and it is easy to smile and laugh. I honestly believe they saved my life. I have never had anyone give so much to me in live and support. They are my new family and my best friends.