AUGUSTA, GA (WFXG)

Twenty-five wheelchair athletes from the Charlie Norwood VA Hospital competed in the National Veterans Wheelchair games in Orlando, Florida on the week of August 2nd. These athletes competed in various sports, ranging from bowling to table tennis to softball to quad rugby, and so much more. One of these athletes won gold with his team, but that is not his only accomplishment since suffering a spinal injury in 2004.

Jeremiah Butler found himself with a fractured vertebra and shifted spinal cord after an altercation with another soldier. The injury affected all four of his limbs. Spinal cord injury recreational therapist, Valerie Mcnary, said, "All of the skills we take for granted every day to take care of ourselves are the things he had to go through and relearn." Even though he was going through this tough transition, his positive attitude remained strong. Butler said, "There is more life out there for me regardless of my situation."

Mcnary said that Butler always had this attitude from the moment he got to the VA Hospital. She said, "Jeremiah always had a desire to do something more. He has had goals from the very beginning." Goals that he has been reaching. Butler has been playing in the wheelchair games since 2007. He has won a total of 15 medals since he started playing, and 13 of those are gold. He said, "It gives you a sense of self-value when you've put in work to achieve a certain level. It makes you feel accomplished." Excelling in sports is something that Mcnary said has given Butler more confidence. She said she has enjoyed seeing his confidence grow. However, he is not only excelling in sports.

The 35-year-old went back to school and graduated with a degree in music education just two years ago. He said, "I recently got a job offer, which is still in the works, so fingers crossed." Not only does he look forward to molding young minds; he also comes back to the VA medical center to mentor other vets who are dealing with newer injuries. Mcnary said, "He will come in and spend time with them, encouraging them, and providing them with some of the questions that only he can answer." For Butler, being a mentor comes with a simple message. He said, "You're not the only one that's been through it. There's light at the end of the tunnel. There's life at the end of the tunnel."

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