Friday, April 20, 2018
Military News

Local athletes train for the 33rd National Veterans Wheelchair Games in Tampa.

NEW TAMPA — Last week, Davis Celestine worked his way through his training circuit with a room-warming smile at the New Tampa YMCA.

Celestine, 38, lives in Lutz and is down to his last training sessions before the 33rd National Veterans Wheelchair Games. The C6 partial quadriplegic plans to break a record by lifting 235 pounds on a military press in his sixth time competing in the games.

"It's mind blowing when you see someone doing something you've never tried," Celestine said. "It gives me inspiration to go out and try it on my own."

The games, here in Tampa for the first time, start Saturday and continue through July 18. After last year's games in Richmond, Va., a torch was passed to James A. Haley VA Medical Center director Kathleen Fogarty.

"We're honored to be the host facility for the world's largest annual wheelchair competition," she said. "It is our privilege to lend support to the athletes as they 'Seize the Day in Tampa Bay' by competing against one another to showcase their life-long rehabilitation and recovery efforts."

The event will bring about 660 veterans to compete in events such as weight lifting, quad rugby, javelin, swimming, basketball, hand-cycling and table tennis. The competing veterans use wheelchairs because of spinal cord injuries, neurological conditions, amputations and other mobility impairments. The games started as a way for veterans to focus on their abilities and work on rehabilitation through competition.

Celestine was injured while training with his U.S. Navy Seals unit before deploying to Afghanistan in 2001. His commander sent him to Tampa, telling him it was the best place for rehabilitation, and Celestine and his family stayed.

"The VA gave me great hope," he said. "They made me feel like the sky's the limit."

He has regained use of his biceps and triceps muscles through adaptive sports and is now the president of the Gulf Coast Chapter of the Paralyzed Veterans of America. People often mistake his injury, suspecting he is a paraplegic.

Celestine will compete in weight lifting, bowling, table tennis, hand-cycling and quad rugby.

Sam Bell, a former Marine who drove a 70-ton Hercules tank in Iraq that he describes as a balled up fist of power, is competing in five events for his first time competing in the games.

Bell, 34, broke his back 16 months ago in a motorcycle accident when someone drove into his lane, he said.

After three months in a coma and another few months to come to terms with where he was, he came downstairs to the Haley recreational therapy room and got to work. Now, he can bench press his weight, but prefers to use the weights as preparation for his events at the games: hand-cycling, bowling, table tennis, air guns and wheelchair slalom.

Bell had a pivotal moment during a martial arts class and now is teaching it to other veterans in wheelchairs at the VA. One day, he hopes to bring martial arts to the national wheelchair games.

He lives in Brandon and drives himself to Haley three days a week to train.

He went through his workout routine on a recent day with Mike Firestone, a physical therapist and coach for the Tampa team of about 35 athletes. Most of the progress a person makes regaining use of limbs happens in the two years after the accident, Firestone said, and Bell plans to work his hardest in that time.

"At the games, he'll see people functioning even better than him," Firestone said. "It'll be a good experience for him."

Elisabeth Parker can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3431.

   
Comments
Howard Altman: Tampa company analyzed strike on Syrian facilities

Howard Altman: Tampa company analyzed strike on Syrian facilities

After President Donald Trump announced the U.S., France and England had carried out attacks on three Syrian chemical weapons centers, a Tampa company began its own analysis of the bomb damage.The analysis, by geospatial intelligence firm Radiant Solu...
Published: 04/20/18
Howard Altman: Air Force turns to original Phillie Phanatic to develop mascot

Howard Altman: Air Force turns to original Phillie Phanatic to develop mascot

Air Mobility Command, the Air Force headquarters overseeing MacDill Air Force Base, wants to develop its own mascot to help interest children in a career with the flying branch. And they are turning to the original Phillie Phanatic, David Raymond, fo...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/12/18
Trump says U.S. to decide on response to ‘atrocious’ Syria chemical attack in 24 to 48 hours

Trump says U.S. to decide on response to ‘atrocious’ Syria chemical attack in 24 to 48 hours

Washington PostWASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Monday that his administration would be making "major decisions" about its response to a suspected chemical attack in Syria within the next 24 to 48 hours, decrying the action as "atrocious" and...
Published: 04/09/18

North Korea tells US that Kim Jong Un ready to discuss nukes

Associated PressWASHINGTON — North Korea’s government has communicated with the United States to say that leader Kim Jong Un is ready to discuss his nuclear weapons program with President Donald Trump, officials said Sunday, increasing the likelihood...
Published: 04/08/18
Air Force pilot killed in Iraq helicopter crash honored at Tampa funeral

Air Force pilot killed in Iraq helicopter crash honored at Tampa funeral

TAMPA — Air Force Capt. Andreas O’Keeffe was the kind of guy who lived to help others, which is why he was in the co-pilot seat aboard an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter when it took off March 15 from a base in western Iraq.A graduate of Tampa Bay Technic...
Published: 04/05/18
Updated: 04/06/18

4 Marines killed in helicopter crash in California

LOS ANGELES — Four Marines were killed when their helicopter crashed while they were practicing desert landings in Southern California, the Miramar air station in San Diego said Wednesday. The Marines took off from a ground-combat center in the city ...
Updated one month ago
Howard Altman: Syrian pullout creates concerns

Howard Altman: Syrian pullout creates concerns

Speaking at the U.S. Institute of Peace on Tuesday, Army Gen. Joseph Votel did not sound like a guy who was planning on pulling American forces out of Syria."We are in Syria to fight ISIS," Votel said about the Sunni jihadi group. "That is our missio...
Updated one month ago
Haley VA director personally presents clinic plans to Sun City Center

Haley VA director personally presents clinic plans to Sun City Center

SUN CITY CENTER — Blanche Sullivan was undeniably impressed.Joe Battle, director of the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital and Clinics, took time out of his busy schedule to drive to Sun City Center and personally facilitate the March 30 town hall mee...
Published: 04/02/18
Updated: 04/05/18
International commandos to show off capabilities in Tampa again in May

International commandos to show off capabilities in Tampa again in May

Be afraid Mayor Buckhorn.Be very afraid.The bad guys might be after you again.You know the ones. They show up every other year in Tampa and capture you, only to see you rescued by a cadre of international commandos swooping in on helicopters, inflata...
Updated one month ago
For military veterans suffering from PTSD, are service dogs good therapy?

For military veterans suffering from PTSD, are service dogs good therapy?

JACKSONVILLE BEACH — Adam Fuller credits a simple, one-word command — and a black Lab mix named J.D. — for helping to save his life. "Cover," he tells J.D., who is sitting to his left in a grassy field next to a park playground. The dog calmly walks ...
Updated one month ago