When Marine Captain Sarah Bettencourt made the decision to serve our country, she answered the calling she felt to “be a part of something bigger than myself and make the world a better, safer place.” But Sarah never imagined that seven years later, her life would take a very unexpected turn, sending her down a path filled with unexpected difficulties … and hope.
In her own words, this is Sarah’s story.
“In October 2008, I was training as a helicopter pilot when a rare neurological disorder affected the use of my hands. I started losing control of my left hand which affected my ability to fly. After many tests, we found lesions in my brain which were causing my hand to stop working properly. More lesions continued to affect both my hands, then my feet, and the rest of my body as I fought to remain in the Marine Corps.
I continued to serve [as an Adjutant] until my disability worsened to where I could no longer walk … my symptoms affected any part of my body causing weakness, loss of coordination, or loss of use in those areas, which remained for a day or for the rest of my life … I was medically retired and went from living my dream to nothing.
With my constantly changing and sometimes very serious symptoms, I struggled to find my place back in society until I was introduced to adaptive sports.
I was at rock bottom when someone from The Fund asked me to attend an adaptive ski event. After trying to explain that I can’t ski (I’m in a wheelchair), I finally agreed to go just to get them off my back. It was this first event that changed my life — allowing me to ski with my husband and friends like I used to and showing me that I can not only still ski but can do anything! I experienced a sled hockey clinic, where I felt like I was flying on the ice, and brought that back to San Diego to provide others the same opportunity. My fire was re-ignited. I found a way to be a part of society again, and I was able to serve others through adaptive sports. At my first Team Semper Fi event, I realized by adapting equipment and technique, I could accomplish anything!
I now live a full and happy life with my husband and two sons, serving others through adaptive sports and representing my nation in sled hockey and surfing. The Fund means opportunity to me, the chance for disabled service members and veterans to overcome their challenges and regain their life, independence, and dreams.
Now I’m sharing my success with the next generation to continue growing adaptive sports and access for all.”