Vail Veterans Program’s Path to Success teaches vets that success is no secret | VailDaily.com

Vail Veterans Program’s Path to Success teaches vets that success is no secret

VAIL — Everyone wants to be successful. Not everyone knows how.

The Vail Veterans Program's Path to Success program sets heroes on … well, the path to success. It's part of Johnson & Johnson's Human Performance Institute.

David, for example, is an injured Iraq War vet. He found himself on his couch fiddling with his smartphone and watching television, as he had done the day before and the day before that and the day before that …

No more. David was part of last weekend's Path to Success follow-up sessions in The Lodge at Vail. David loves being active, but lethargy is a seductive enemy. He said he still has his gray days when he doesn't want to get off the couch, but other days he does.

What's on that path to success?

The Veterans Path to Success is for Vail Veterans Program alumni. It's a three-day training program focusing on performance psychology, exercise physiology and nutrition. They learn to expand their physical, emotional, mental and spiritual energy and sustain increased engagement, performance and resiliency.

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Vail Valley local Jon Damon was part of last weekend's Human Performance Institute sessions in The Lodge at Vail. Eagle County's Our Community Foundation sent Damon to Orlando, Florida, last October for his first Veterans Path to Success sessions.

It's all about the energy, Damon said. You have a finite amount of energy, so you need to learn where to apply yours for the best personal results.

"It's a tank, and you have to refill it," Damon explained.

They also consider their personal narratives.

"In other words, what do you tell yourself all day? Good things or bad things?" Damon said.

Then there's Toby, who was injured so badly that he was told he'd never be able to take care of himself or live independently. It was suggested that he live out his days in a nursing home. He's in his 30s, and that was too many days.

"I never heard my mother cuss in her life until she said, 'Eff you. Yes he can,'" Toby said.

Toby is in college now, and he's doing fine.

Success is no secret

The Veterans Path to Success is a roadmap to all sorts of success. Professional, of course, but also personal.

Dr. James Loehr hypothesized that if elite athletes train to do their jobs, then corporate athletes can, too. And so he laid the foundation for the Human Performance Institute. Johnson & Johnson liked it so much they bought it and invited the Vail Veterans Program to be part of it.

"Johnson & Johnson's Human Performance Institute has a deep commitment to providing services for veterans within our company and partnering with organizations like the Vail Veterans Program," Johnson & Johnson's Jill Shull said.

Shull said the founders of the Human Performance Institute think working with veterans is the most important and rewarding work they do.

"We are honored to work with (Vail Veterans Program) to provide life-changing programs in Orlando and Vail for wounded veterans," she said.

Cheryl Jensen launched the Vail Veterans Program as an adaptive ski program for military veterans wounded in the Middle East. It expanded to families and then to caregivers and now to professional training.

The results are astounding. Veterans learn to ski or mountain bike, or any number of other things they didn't think they could do. For more than a decade, they've said if they can do those things, they can do anything.

Adaptability of all sorts

Looking around that The Lodge at Vail conference room last weekend, you spotted a half-dozen wheelchairs, a few canes and several sets of crutches.

"Stress can propel us," said Chris Diaz, who was in Vail to run this year's Human Performance Institute.

In a large conference room, Diaz moved easily between a dozen tables, among people who were eager to learn and grow.

"It reminds me we're not alone," said one veteran. He's blind and walks with a cane.

They're not alone, Diaz said. They have one another.

"Sometimes we feel we cannot control what happens to us. It's true. We can't," Diaz said. "We control how we react to it, how we handle it."

Life is rarely steady, it tends to oscillate like a roller coaster, and you choose how the ride goes, Diaz said.

That choice stems from adaptability, something Vail Veterans Program people know about.

They have all kinds of things in common. They're each on their paths to success.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

To help

The Vail Veterans Program is supported by donors, corporate sponsors and volunteers. That allows all programs to be free for veterans and their families. For more information about the Vail Veterans Program, including how to donate and/or volunteer, visit vailveteransprogram.org or call 970-476-4906.