In Manhattan, a mix of Veteran and civilian men and women ranging from their mid-20’s to over 70 years old, regularly meet at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice to participate in a new program geared toward helping wounded Vets get the physical therapy they need. Many of the members possess the technical skills for shooting down rockets or driving armored tanks, but have never had the opportunity to learn to swim. This groundbreaking program is changing all that.
Program Director Dr. Jane Katz, 74, a professor of health and physical education at the college, says she started the program as a way for these valued ex-military heroes and civilians to get socially active, improve their individual conditions, and connect with other swimmers working to regain their health. Struck down by a drunk driver as a young Olympian swimmer in the 1960’s, she herself used swim therapy to help recover from her personal injuries. Furthermore, her father and husband were both veterans, generating in her a distinct eagerness to help this group of patients. The ‘WETs 4 Vets’ immersion therapy class was a labor of love for Dr. Katz, and one that has forged a deep bond between the individuals involved.
One young vet, Jonathan Martinez, 27, who recently graduated from the 10-week class, has returned to help his fellow vets. Martinez spent over a year in rehab for a fractured vertebra following a fall off a cliff in Afghanistan. The injury resulted in left-sided paralysis. During his time in rehab, he met Dr. Katz and got involved in her unique water-based therapy program. Now, two years later, he is once again fully ambulatory and embraces the chance to help others improve their physical handicaps, both service-related and otherwise. He now serves as Dr. Katz assistant teacher.