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thedrifter
03-26-09, 08:44 AM
Wounded Warriors get heroes' welcome in NH

By BENJAMIN KEPPLE
New Hampshire Union Leader Staff

MANCHESTER – About two dozen wounded military personnel received a hero's welcome last night as they arrived in New Hampshire for a weekend of skiing and snowboarding.

Most were soldiers or Marines, although there were also airmen and a sailor among the group. They came to New Hampshire as part of the Wounded Warrior Disabled Sports Project, an endeavor that lets wounded troops take part in sports activities as part of their rehabilitation.

For the troops taking part, the program is a way for them to experience activities similar to those they did before they were hurt. The support clearly meant a lot to them.

"It helps with the transition phase and transition back into civilian life,"said U.S. Army Sgt. Bryan Florence of Louisville, Ky., who was badly hurt in Iraq in September 2007. He is now recuperating at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

"You find out there's a lot of lovely people across the country who support what we do, no matter what you hear the media say," Florence said.

Florence and his fellow service members arrived in the Granite State yesterday. They and their families were met at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, and their convoy was provided with a Manchester Fire Department escort to Fratello's Ristorante Italiano in the Millyard.

There, they were honored with a banquet, which more than 100 others also attended.

Among those welcoming them to the Granite State was Maj. Gen. Kenneth Clark, the New Hampshire National Guard's adjutant general, who thanked the troops for their service, and Matt Albuquerque, a vice president with city-based Next Step Orthotics & Prosthetics Inc. The company has helped sponsor the program, now in its fifth year, since its inception.

►Wounded Warrior Project Web site

http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/

"We wanted to find a way to show appreciation and honor those who are making sacrifices for us. Because we see examples every day, it is important for us to do something outside the box, outside what's currently being offered to them through conventional, traditional channels,"Albuquerque said.

"It brings life back,"said Kathy Chandler, the founder and director of AbilityPLUS, a non-profit that provides adaptive recreation for those with disabilities. "It brings normalcy back to them -- that they can go back and feel the wind on their faces and ski down those mountains."

For U.S. Army Sgt. Ryan Newell, of Marion, Kan., being able to take part in the endeavors has been, in a word, great.

Newell, who served in Afghanistan, was hurt in an IED blast in early 2008. Both his legs were amputated. He is also recuperating at Walter Reed.

"We did it last year and it was a blast. ... I had such a blast we came back the weekend after,"Newell said.

The troops will be at the Bretton Woods ski area today, Loon Mountain tomorrow and Waterville Valley Saturday.

Ellie