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World War II veterans had surprising impact on sports for people living with disabilities

Posted at 6:48 PM, Jul 06, 2023

MANITOWOC (NBC 26) — It is no secret that many veterans returned home from World War II without the use of their legs. Los Angeles-based author David Davis decided to research what some of these heroes did once back in the U.S.

"They're literally lying on their beds going, 'What can we do?'" Davis said. "That's when the doctors came in and said 'Let's try some physical therapy, let's get these guys moving in their wheelchairs.'"

And so it began, a new wheelchair basketball sport.

"It was very good for, you know, their well-being and their healing," said Davis.

Today, wheelchair sports leagues and teams can be found around the country. This is to the absolute advantage of Damian Buchman, founder of The Ability Center, whose leg surgery required while battling childhood cancer left him unable to play traditional sports.

"I always wanted to play team sports," Buchman said. "So what it has meant to me? As I hit 30 was the first time I was ever a part of a team sport dynamic. It was everything I was wishing for and missed as a teenager."

Buchman says wheelchair sports, also called adaptive sports, work best when civilians and veterans living with disabilities play and lean on each other. He cherishes the leadership veterans display.

"You hear of the brotherhood, right? You hear they got each others back, you hear nobody left behind," said Buchman. "They bring that same mentality to the court or to the field, to the pool, whatever thing they are competing in, and they lift you up."

As clearly important as these adaptive sports are, Davis' book dives into their history.

"This has everything! These young men going off to war to fight for the country," Davis said. "They had their future ahead of them and then you come back and you've lost the use of your legs. Then you make this other comeback and invent this whole new sport."

The presentation of Davis' book, Wheels of Courage, was held at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum Thursday.