PHOENIX, Ariz., (Dec 12, 2011) --
Over 20 wounded, ill and injured Marines gathered at the Virginia G. Piper Sports and Fitness here today to learn how to play wheelchair basketball. The camp was hosted by the Wounded Warrior Regiment’s Warrior Athlete Reconditioning program and serves as a precursor to the 2012 Marine Corps Trials aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., Feb. 13-22 and the Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, Colo., April 30 to May 6.
This is the last of a seven-sport camp schedule which hosted athletes with ability levels from novice to elite. The sports camps include swimming, cycling, shooting, archery, wheelchair basketball and seated volleyball. For the new participants in the wheelchair basketball camp, such as Lance Cpl. Artelaleksandrovich Lazukin, the challenges of a new sport were apparent.
“We struggled to learn how to shoot, pass and maneuver a chair while remaining seated,” said Lazukin. “After that, it was a lot of fun. [Wheelchair basketball] definitely evens out the playing field for us guys who have no legs. I think that many people will have an appreciation for the Marines and this sport after watching it for the first time.”
Lazukin and his family came to the United States in 2009 from Evpatoria, Ukraine. In December 2009 Lazukin decided that he would enlist in the Marine Corps. “I joined the Marines because I wanted to earn my citizenship and serve as an American.”
On June 22, 2011 Lazukin was injured while conducting a dismounted patrol in the Sangin District, Helmand Province, Afghanistan. He stepped on a 15-pound IED that resulted in the loss of both of his legs above the knee.
Although Lazukin was injured only five months ago, he has quickly found many activities to participate in through the Wounded Warrior Regiment’s, WAR program.
“This program takes my mind off my injury and the hospital. I can now focus on other things in my life,” said Lazukin. “I have gotten to know other Marines and see the struggles that they have gone through. I have built a lot of friendships by attending these camps and overall I have had a lot of fun.”
Lazukin plans on attending this year’s Marine Corps Trials and is a Warrior Games hopeful. He would like to participate in seated volleyball and air-rifle shooting. During the Marine Corps Trials wounded, ill and injured Marines, Marine veterans and international Marines and soldiers will compete in seven paralympic sports. These athletes will comprise four teams that will compete against each other, East, West, Veteran and International. The mission of the Trials is to incorporate approximately 200 wounded, ill and injured athletes into a competitive sports setting and to provide a forum to select 50 athletes as members of the All-Marine team for the Warrior Games. The Warrior Games is an annual competition between all branches of service for wounded, ill and injured service members.
Lauzukin wants to encourage other newly injured Marines, “to attend one of these events and see how you like it. You will make many bonds here that will help you through your own recovery.”
Established in 2007, the Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment was created to provide and facilitate non-medical care to combat and non-combat wounded, ill, and injured Marines, and sailors attached to or in direct support of Marine units and their family members in order to assist them as they return to duty or transition to civilian life. The Regimental Headquarters element, located in Quantico, Va., commands the operations of two Wounded Warrior Battalions located at Camp Pendleton, Calif., and Camp Lejeune, N.C., and multiple detachments in locations around the globe.
For more information about the Warrior Athlete Reconditioning program or the upcoming Marine Corps Trials, go to: www.woundedwarriorregiment.org/warriorgames.aspx or email us at WWSports@USMC.mil.
For more information about the Wounded Warrior Regiment go to: www.woundedwarriorregiment.org, call the Sgt. Merlin German Wounded Warrior Call Center 24/7 at (877) 487-6299 or visit us at http://Facebook.com/wwr.usmc.