These veterans share a bond, years after serving their country

Posted at 6:28 PM, Nov 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-10 18:28:54-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- They come from different backgrounds and opposite branches of the military, but Jimmy May and Josh Burch share a deep bond.

Jimmy, an Army veteran, lost his ability to walk during a 1968 mortar attack in Vietnam.

He was 18.

Josh, a Marine, became a quadriplegic at age 20 after a fall in 2015.

The devastating injuries altered the course of their lives.

Now one organization is helping these friends thrive.

The Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) fuels not just camaraderie but competition. PVA supports veterans through athletics and other services.

"I’ve been a member many years back in the 70s. I’m still doing it. I love it," May said.

From basketball and softball to ping pong and bowling, name the sport and May has probably played it.

“Until you really do it you don’t know what is out there,” he said. “You got to try it. Keep doing it and don’t give up.”

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The chapter’s current president refuses to let life pass him by.

“Would I love to have my legs back like when I was 18, yes. But I knew it wasn’t going to happen so I knew I had to adapt to it,” May said.

Burch was introduced to PVA during his three-month rehab.

“There were some downtimes, but that urgency to compete, just be better is what kept me going,” Burch said. “We’re all in this together. Whether we wanted to be in the chair or not. I’m pretty sure no one wanted to be in one but you have to deal with what you’re given.”

Burch, 27, loves to play rugby. The Marine credited the nonprofit and seasoned veterans like May for helping him regain confidence.

“PVA means a lot. It means something that helped me get my independence and get out and try new things and venture on to bigger things. The PVA does a lot of public events. You’re out in the world and you have to adapt to it. If you don’t then you’re stuck inside,” he said.

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“To see Josh starting out encourages me and encourages other people,” May said. “It is definitely important for me to pass it on.”

Executive Director Ivan Schwartz said the chapter boasts about 800 paralyzed veterans who served in World War II to post 9/11 conflicts.

“The mission of PVA is very diverse and it covers a very diverse population of members,” Schwartz said. “We enable them to have opportunities that carry beyond their quote-unquote disability.”

Jimmy May and Josh Burch have different military backgrounds but are proud to be on the same team.

“These are veterans. These are patriots. These are heroes,” Schwartz said. “There is not a disability. It is all about ability. And they bring us along with them.“

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