What Some Burien-Area Vets Are Doing Today

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by Janet Grella

When BTB Editor Scott Schaefer remarked that we didn’t have a story for Veterans Day, my first and only thought was to stop by the Burien headquarters of Paralyzed Veterans of America.

I’ve been driving by that office for 14 years, and always wanted to know what they were up to. Turns out a lot…

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Located at 616 SW 152nd in Burien, this is headquarters for the northwest region, serving over 400 paralyzed service men and women in Washington, Idaho, Alaska and Western Montana.   The Paralyzed Veterans of America is a congressionally chartered veterans service organization founded in 1946. NWPVA (Northwest Paralyzed Veterans of America) was founded in Burien over 30 years ago, and has been at their 152nd location for 20 years.

They are paralyzed veterans advocates at both the state and national level. Their mission is to protect veterans’ rights on the issue of quality healthcare, to promote the research and education addressing spinal cord injury and dysfunction, and protect the civil rights and opportunities to maximize the independence of its members.

Veteran David Zurfluh was once paralyzed from the neck down, but now he is able to walk.

Veteran David Zurfluh was once paralyzed from the neck down but is now able to walk.

The office is manned by Executive Director Ernie Butler, and Office Manager Lisa Lawrence.  NWPVA depends on volunteers that are veterans of military accidents.  President and volunteer of NWPVA, David Zurfluh told BTB that most veterans with spinal cord injury occurred during military accidents as opposed to war.  David wants our readers to know that the PVA is for veterans who have suffered spinal cord injuries due to to severing, diseases of the spine or MS.

David’s accident occurred after he left the first Gulf War and was stationed in Japan. He was career Air Force getting ready to become a flight engineer. He was injured while in a training exercise with the Japanese National Self Defense Team – he was a passenger in a car accident that severed his spine.  He was paralyzed from the neck down for the first two weeks of his hospitalization.  The doctors gave him an outside chance of walking again.  Thirteen years later and years of rehab, David is what is known as an “Incomplete Quadriplegic”, which means after wheel chairs, then leg braces, David is able to walk, thanks to the help of AFO’s, or Artificial Foot Orthodics that function as a mini-brace around his ankles.  He thinks he walks like Peter Boyle’s “Frankenstein”, but he IS walking, and able to use his left hand (he was formerly right handed). He credits the PVA’s advocacy in research, education and technical advances in spinal cord injuries to doubling his and others’ life expectancies.

NWPVA is currently fundraising for the National Veterans Wheel Chair Games in Spokane next July. Over 500 athletes from all over the United States and an honorary team from England will compete in Softball, Basketball, and Quad Rugby.  Your donation will help the wheel chair athletes travel to Spokane.  You can donate by using www.goodsearch.com, by clicking on their donation page, or by mailing a check to:

616 SW 152nd
Burien, WA 998166

If you’ve never seen Quad Rugby, check out this video – this is one intense sport:

NWPVA has local sports outings, including hunting, fishing and shooting.

“You put a gun in an army or marines hands and they just love it”, explains David.

Other things they do for NWPVA members is monthly pizza parties, including salad and soda at the Spinal Cord Unit at Veterans Hospital, a Christmas party and summer picnic for members.

What are David and his group of volunteers at NWPVA doing this Veterans Day and the day after?  Visiting 50 paralyzed veterans at the Spinal Cord Unit at Seattle Veterans Hospital to let them know they are not forgotten, and honor each and every one for their service.

Perhaps readers of BTB should take a moment to honor them and other veterans too.

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