Shooting for perfection
Story by Taylor Wilson
Photo by Loren Worthington
For veterans, the experiences and skills they gained while serving in the military stay with them for life. Some of these skills become passions. When veterans are injured in the line of duty, they sometimes wonder if they have to give up these passions. One group in Arizona aims to help veterans continue to practice the skills they love.
Arizona Disabled Sports (AzDS) air rifle and pistol shooting program was created three years ago with the help of a $10,000 grant provided by Adaptive Sports USA. AzDS was one of the first organizations in the country to start and build an adaptive shooting program.
The program meets weekly on Monday nights for 90 minutes. In that time, athletes sight in their guns and compete against each other while receiving coaching from staff and volunteers. The program runs for 14 weeks. Athletes have the option to compete in the Desert Challenge Games at the end of the season.
In 2015 the program started with 10 athletes. Today, there are 16 athletes registered for the season. Two of the athletes currently enrolled in the program are female veterans.
Desiree served in the Navy for 20 months as a Torpedo-man. She lives with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and spinal injuries. While on active duty, Desiree slipped and fell requiring surgery to fuse her left hip.
After returning to Arizona, Desiree became an active member of AzDS. She heard about the shooting program through her participation in the archery program. She decided to give the air rifle a try and has loved coming ever since.
Vickie served in the Army for four years as a Radio Technician Operator. While stationed in Germany, she was driving a military vehicle when someone ran a red light and hit her vehicle, resulting in a spinal cord injury in the C5/C6 vertebrae.
Vickie heard about our program through a flyer at the Veterans Affairs. She decided to try out the program and is now an active participants. She has made many new friends and was excited to fire an air rifle after not shooting a gun for over 30 years.
While there are currently no other organizations in Arizona that offer the programs and instruction that we offer at AzDS, there are other options for individuals who would like to get involved in air rifle and pistol. People can practice their air gun shooting skills at locations such as Ben Avery or Rio Salado shooting ranges; membership fees apply. It is an alternative for individuals who live too far to attend the weekly programs at Arizona Disabled Sports.
Taylor Wilson attends Arizona State University for Parks and Recreation Management with a concentration in Recreational Therapy. She is completing her internship with the City of Mesa Adaptive Recreation department as the last requirement of her coursework. She has worked for Arizona Disabled Sports for four years and has coached the kayaking, cycling and air rifle programs.