From Battle Zone To Whitewater

For American soldiers severely wounded in war, rehabilitation can be arduous and seemingly endless.

But CBS News correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reports on some wounded vets who've found an innovative way to find the strength and motivation to keep going.

Dan Gade is in a battle with a river — and himself. This battle is to learn to roll a kayak.

Not long ago, he was in a far different fight — in Iraq. A Humvee explosion cost him his right leg. He was brought to Walter Reed Army Medical Center for the first stage of rehab.

He's progressed enough to come to the Potomac River.

"When you're out on the water, you can't focus on how your day was or how your week was," Gade says. "You just have to focus on your own little piece of the world or else you're going to be upside down."

Gade is one of dozens of wounded soldiers learning to whitewater kayak on the Potomac River. It's a fast, furious sport that requires total concentration and intense physical effort. It's even tougher if you don't have both legs — the boat becomes unbalanced and it's harder to control.

So the kayaks are stuffed with weights and foam blocks.

"We're trying to counterbalance for the loss of my legs," Gade says.

The trips are organized by Team River Runner, a volunteer group of avid kayakers. They say paddling is the ideal physical and mental exercise for those missing lower limbs.

"Suddenly you get that spark of life in them again, and they forget about their woes. It's just them and the river," says Tom McEwan of Liquid Adventures.

Many, like Adam Campbell, who also lost a leg, feel a tremendous sense of pride when they beat the river.

Others, like Dan Gade, are still fighting.

"I've got to learn to roll and then it will be really fun because I can go to really scary places," Gade says.

This from a man who's been in some really scary places in war but has new challenges to conquer in the place he is now.
  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen Smith is a senior editor for CBSNews.com