AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) — Everyone from former Denver Broncos players to beauty pageant queens will be walking the halls of the Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center in the coming days. They’re special guests, paying a visit to veterans as part of National Salute to Veteran Patients Week.
“I’m paralyzed from here down,” he said, pointing to his chest. The Navy veteran who served on an aircraft carrier before and after 9/11 was injured in a motorcycle crash near Cripple Creek a year and a half ago.
“But I’m talking to you guys. I’m coherent. I didn’t mess up my face,” Andy joked. He says his military service prepared him for the challenge he now faces. That’s something another patient echoed.
The Army veteran known as “Mr. Martinez” fell at home 16 months ago and injured his spine. He’s been in the hospital ever since.
“It turns your entire life upside down and you learn to rebuild. And it takes a lot of strength and love,” his wife told FOX31.
On Tuesday, he gets to go home for a few hours. It’s his first time out of the hospital. He can’t wait to see his grandchildren.
Every year, the week of Feb.14 is set aside to say “thank you” to the more than nine million veterans cared for in Veterans Affairs hospitals, clinics and nursing homes. The VA invites professionals, students, local media and celebrities to visit with those who are injured.
“For that brief instance, they’re not a patient anymore. They’re away from that,” said Jack Fletcher, a volunteer coordinator at the Aurora hospital.
In every room, there’s another American hero on the mend. Like Weldon, who was left with a spinal injury after a car wreck last year.
“You just learn to adapt. And with me, the interesting thing is, it was literally from one second to another I had a new normal,” he said.
A new normal made easier by the doctors, nurses, staff and volunteers at the hospital who spend their entire day serving those who served.