Injured war vets Warriors hockey team

Photo: Defense Department

Working in the News Department of a news/talk radio station, I have a special opportunity to talk to some amazing people in all walks of life. Usually these interviews are not connected to hockey, but recently I was able to interview retired Sergeant Joe Bowser, an NHL Ambassador for Disabled Hockey and Member of Warrior Ice Hockey.

The media has overused the word “hero” so often that its true meaning has been desensitized. How often have we heard that word thrown around to a Hollywood celebrity who goes to Africa for a one day on a charity mission, but in the end, turns out to only stay as long as it takes to get her picture taken. Bowser is not one of “those” people.

After serving his country in Iraq, Bowser lost both his legs and had to use a wheelchair when he returned to Walter Reed, to receive care.  It wasn’t an easy time for him, but Bowser was able to recover and afterwards, he volunteered his time to helping other injured military veterans recover.

As he attempts to help others make their own recovery, Boswer said he believes playing hockey during his rehabilitation process helped him immensely.

Today, he is encouraging other soldiers to turn to the sport to help them recover. Bowser is not only an NHL ambassador for disabled hockey, he is also a member of the Warriors Hockey Team, a hockey team comprised of soldiers from Walter Reed Medical Center who were injured in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The war veteran said by coming back to hockey–he played before he was a soldier–he was able to turn his health around.

“After I got wounded, I spent two and a half years at Walter Reed. I was in a wheelchair for a long period of time and started gaining weight. Once I got out [on the ice] and really playing hard, the pounds, I just started sweating them off.”

As Bowser was able to lose his wheelchair and use prosthetic legs, he credits playing hockey, with getting his lower extremities back into strength and his body back into health.

“Being in a wheelchair for a long period of time causes you to start getting Arthropyosis. I know the doctor says that’s what I was getting because I couldn’t wear my leg for such a long period of time. Just getting that blood pumping through your bones strengths it. So there are a lot of benefits to it.”

More than just healing the pain, Bowser says hockey allowed him, if only temporarily, to forget about the pain.  “With hockey, you get into the game and passing the puck and just skating and you lose the thought of, ‘this is really hurting.”

It’s an experience Bowser wants to share with others, and does, no matter how badly they may be injured. “We’ve got guys who maybe only have a thumb on one hand. We’ll take the glove and maybe tape a stick to their hand. One of the things we say in the military is we’ll adapt and overcome. That’s a whole lot of what we do.” (With Warrior hockey.)

And with the Warrior hockey team needing equipment, all the credit in the world must go to the NHL and the Washington Capitals who donated apparel in support of the USA Warriors Ice Hockey Team. Former NHLers like Grant Fuhr and a host of others also attended Walter Reed to talk to injured veterans.

“It’s awesome! The NHL has been absolutely wonderful. They care about the soldiers,” says Bowser.

Used with permission of the author.

Based in Washington, D.C. Michael Hoffman has covered D.C. sports for numerous publications and is the Washington Capitals columnist for Hoffman is also an NHL contributor to Sports Climax. 

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