Adaptations: The CCASC Newsletter 7th - Page 6

Veteran Participant : Jesus Fierro
By Mike Braham
The first time Jesus Fierro was in a kayak , he thought it was going to sink . “ You ’ re always on the alert ,” said the Veteran of the conflict in Southeast Asia .
Randy Coffman , the Executive Director of the Central California Adaptive Sports Center ( CCASC ), reassured him . “ He said , ‘ Trust me . Get in the kayak , I won ’ t let it sink ,” Fierro recalled . Fierro began to think in another direction : “ The boat is not going to sink .”
Fierro ’ s alertness comes from experience . Fifty years later , the sounds of war still haunt him . Even the smallest noise can set him off . He still has trouble trusting . This is the legacy of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder ( PTSD ).
When Fierro , 69 , got out of the Army in 1972 , PTSD was not fully understood . While there was recognition in those days that PTSD existed , it wasn ’ t discussed much . Getting help was difficult because PTSD often went unrecognized .
Fierro said PTSD caused him to lose his family and friends . He couldn ’ t hold down a job or have a relationship . He became an alcoholic .
He never sought help , in part because soldiers tend to be afraid to show weakness and he wasn ’ t aware of programs that addressed PTSD . Why are these things happening , he wondered ?
But now , Veterans and the Veterans Administration know all about PTSD . “ They started understanding ,” Fierro said .
And he started to tell himself : “ Hey , I ’ m not crazy .” “ I started to feel a little differently , but that damage was done . PTSD will never go away . That will always be there .”
Today , Fierro still experiences flashbacks , but he ’ s “ gotten better .” Some of his healing came years later when Fierro was referred to CCASC , which has experience with persons with PTSD . Outdoor programs in both summer and winter provide the confidence needed to deal with PTSD . In addition to kayaking , Fierro has participated in CCASC ’ s skiing , camping , fishing and bike riding activities . “ I don ’ t have time to think about the dark stuff .”
Andrea Hernandez , a certified therapeutic recreation specialist with the Veterans Administration , says “ CCASC has been a good resource , allowing us to help our veterans find their own motivation , experience meaningful leisure , recreation , and develop a sense of purpose .”
“ Many Veterans openly express that they feel like a part of the greater Central Valley community through their engagement with CCASC , and demonstrate that they are willing to meet rehabilitative goals and objectives in support of personal goals such as managing symptoms of PTSD for an overnight camping trip or increased balance , strength and endurance for skiing or paddle boarding clinics .”
The diversity of services offered by CCASC is what attracted the Veterans Administration . “ I reached out to Randy and we discussed CCASC programs and planned a site visit to China Peak ,” Hernandez said . “ During the visit it became very clear that CCASC would be a wonderful opportunity for the veterans we serve .”