Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Former Airman Continues on Despite Illness

By Air Force Staff Sgt. Vanessa Young
Defense Media Activity-San Antonio

May 11, 2010 - Former Air Force Staff Sgt. Jeanne Goldy-Sanitate used to be referred to as "Our Lady of Perpetual Motion." A broken back and multiple sclerosis may have slowed her down, but at 54 years old, she's still rolling. Goldy-Sanitate, known as Jersey Jeanne to her teammates, will be shooting, swimming and cycling during the inaugural Warrior Games here May 10 through May 14.

She is one of 17 Air Force athletes competing in these games against other wounded, ill and injured athletes from across the services. Her positive attitude is an inspiration to her teammates.

"I told one of (my teammates), 'I'm old enough to be your mother,' and he said, 'No, you're old enough to be my mentor,'" she said.

Goldy-Sanitate served as a military optometry technician from 1976 to 1984. During a training exercise in 1984, she broke her back when the ambulance she was riding in crashed. She was told she probably would not walk again.

"Six months later, I was walking with a cane," she said.

After the accident, Goldy-Sanitate said she wasn't able to run the six miles she used to run, but she stayed active by biking and pacing a neighbor as she ran six miles.

Goldy-Sanitate is no stranger to adaptive sports. Since 2006, she has participated in golf, softball, hand-cycling, shooting, basketball, snowboarding and her favorite, Nordic biathlon. She earned five gold medals and a bronze in competition during various veterans' games and sports clinics.

"Sports gave me my life back," she said. "I may be 54, but I feel like I'm 21."

At one particular sports clinic, a U.S. Paralympics athlete and Air Force veteran, Sean Halstead, noticed Goldy-Sanitate's love of the Nordic biathlon. He told her to take up hand-cycling in the off season.

Once she received her handcycle, Goldy-Sanitate joined other disabled veterans and biked 350 miles as part of a "Ride to Recovery," in Florida.

Goldy-Sanitate said she bikes in support of disabled veterans, but also tries to help some of the wounded warriors she meets at Dover Air Force Base, Del., by encouraging them to get active.

"For some of the wounded warriors who transition to the civilian world, they'll notice there isn't the camaraderie that there was in the military," she said. "I always tell them to get into sports. Sports gives them [back] that camaraderie."

Her teammates said her attitude creates a positive atmosphere.

"She's a really positive person and tough competitor," said retired Master Sgt. Kim Bradshaw, an athlete on the Air Force team and Goldy-Sanitate's roommate during the games. "It's never a competition between us, just us encouraging each other."

Goldy-Sanitate said she is just happy to be on a team again.

"I'm totally jazzed; just the fact that I'm here," she said. "Just being on a team, because we are a team always. The thing I always missed was the camaraderie."

Goldy-Sanitate, along with her wheelchair basketball teammates, will compete against the Marine Corps and Navy team May 11 at the Olympic Training Center here.

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