HARKER HEIGHTS — Army veteran James Leisinger doesn’t remember the blast that blew up his Humvee in Iraq in 2008. One minute he was driving down the road, the next he was lying on the floor of the truck, his crew shaking him and checking for injuries.
The blast tore the top off the Humvee and left Leisinger, a former scout sniper, with a severe concussion, post-traumatic stress disorder and, eventually, a medical discharge.
Leisinger, 32, was one of several veterans and disabled athletes from around the area putting arrows to bows at an archery session hosted by the Harker Heights adaptive sports program Tuesday at the recreation center gym.
Although he had never shot a bow and arrow before, Leisinger, who was discharged from the Army in 2011, thought the sport would be fun and therapeutic.
“I like archery, because it’s something you can do almost anywhere,” he said. “With PTSD, I get angry very easily. This is a positive way to release some frustration if you need to.”
The archery equipment was recently purchased with an $18,000 Olympic Opportunity Fund grant from U.S. Paralympics, a division of the U.S. Olympic Committee, Recreation Superintendent Joe Brown said. The fund is provided through a partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Olympic Committee. Harker Heights was one of 97 organizations awarded grants this year.
“We’re really blessed to be funded like we are,” Brown said. “I look around at other programs and people are struggling with funds. Our city also supports the program (financially), and that’s really great, too.”
The city implemented the adaptive sports program in 2010 as a way to include the entire community — the able-bodied, physically-challenged, and visually and mentally impaired — in sporting events. Along with the archery equipment, Brown plans to use the grant funds to purchase kayaks and off-road wheelchairs and to maintain existing equipment like the hand-cycles used for basketball.
Brown said the archery equipment also is available to senior citizens and children in the city’s “super hero” sports program.
For more information about the adaptive sports program, call the Harker Heights Parks and Recreation Department at (254) 953-5657.