Heroes Among Us


Quadriplegic Airborne Ranger provides retreat for disabled vets

Posted at 2:29 PM, May 05, 2016
and last updated 2018-06-13 19:34:39-04

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- Tucked away in a small, serene corner of Chesterfield you will find a quiet retreat with no hustle and certainly no bustle. Once a month, disabled veterans from the VA arrive and Veterans and Athletes United (VAU) rolls out the red carpet for a day of fellowship, food, and fishing.

The non-profit helps veterans overcome obstacles in life.

"I spent most of my time when I was with the 82nd Airborne at Ft. Bragg," James Howard said. "I was very blessed to find this place."

James Howard

James Howard

James Howard, the founder of VAU, identifies with his guests.

The Iraq War veteran was injured in the service and medically retired in 2010 as a quadriplegic.

"I've found being in a chair for eight years I’ve learned the most from those who have been there and done that," James said.

James Howard

James Howard

The retreats are held at James’ home which has been modified to make maneuvering in a wheelchair easy.

At the retreat James inspires fellow disabled veterans to ski, play basketball, and even skydive.

"I’m still going to enjoy every day to the fullest and enjoy the moment," James said.

Visitors, like Korean War veteran Shade Palmer, salute James for lifting the spirits of their brothers and sisters in arms who are confined to wheelchairs.

"I’ve never seen anything like this," Shade said. "It is amazing."

Korean War veteran Shade Palmer

Korean War veteran Shade Palmer

James’ mother, Nancy Wellons, could not be more proud of her son’s accomplishments.

"He loves to do things for veterans and he has since day one," Nancy said. "He has taught me to live on the positives and not dwell on the negatives in life."

James’ mother Nancy Wellons

James’ mother Nancy Wellons

Veteran’s Athletes United is a place where each guest leaves with a priceless can-do perspective.

"I think James is a terrific guy. He needs a lot of recognition," Shade Palmer said.

James has plans for his waterside property. He would like to build a memorial to all of the men and women who have given their lives in the War on Terror.

James would also like to see a Veterans and Athletes United retreat center located near each VA across the country.

Find more information about the non-profit, click here.

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Greg McQuade features local heroes in a weekly “Heroes Among Us” segment. Watch Greg’s reports Thursdays on CBS News at 6 or here on WTVR.com. If you would like to nominate someone to be featured on “Heroes Among Us,” click here to email heroes@wtvr.com.