Outpatient Rehab Helps Veteran Experience Honor Flight

When Springfield resident Roger Kadow began attending physical therapy, his goal was simple: regaining enough mobility to walk down his hallway at home and let out his dogs.

But when he learned that he would be taking part in an upcoming Honor Flight, his goals expanded. He told his therapist that he wanted to be able to walk with his fellow military veterans during their tour of the nation’s capital.

“Initially, I thought it was a pretty lofty goal,” said physical therapist Stacy Curtis. “But the progress he made was incredible.”

Roger, who served in the United States Air Force from 1963 to 1968, was one of dozens of local veterans who visited the museums and monuments of Washington, D.C., on a Land of Lincoln Honor Flight in September. The flights, held six times a year, allow veterans from the World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War eras to visit the nation’s capital for free.

“It’s a lifetime experience that shouldn’t be missed,” he said, noting that he applied for a place on an Honor Flight several years ago and was excited when his turn finally came.

But as the date for the trip approached, he wasn’t sure whether he’d be able to walk with the tour group or would have to depend on a wheelchair. His long-term back pain, resulting from spinal stenosis, seriously limited his mobility.

“I was having a hard time walking even short distances without having to sit down and rest,” he said.

His doctor recommended physical therapy at Memorial Outpatient Rehab Services, located at the Gus and Flora Kerasotes YMCA in Springfield. During his ten weeks of rehab, Roger worked hard both during his sessions and at home. He progressed from a walker to a cane, and ultimately was able to walk unaided.

“The most inspirational thing was how hard he worked,” Stacy added. “He didn’t let any obstacles get in his way.”

As the Honor Flight took off from Springfield on Sept. 25, Roger knew he’d have a wheelchair available if he needed one. He also brought his cane. But he was determined to walk on his own as much as possible as the group toured sites like the Air Force Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial – and he was able to meet that goal.

But the most moving part of the trip was the return to Springfield, where hundreds of people were waiting to greet the veterans at Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport.

Stacy was part of that cheering, flag-waving crowd, along with Environmental Services technician Lisa Harms, who is also part of the Memorial staff at the YMCA. As the veterans filed off the plane, the pair caught sight of Roger – walking proudly.

“It was so emotional for us when we saw him coming down the hallway, not even using his cane,” Stacy said.

“It was a long walk down that hallway,” Roger said. “But it was enjoyable.”