Patrick Zeigler

Army veteran Patrick Zeigler was named recipient of the 2014 DAV Freedom Award for Outstanding Courage and Achievement at the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic in Snowmass, Colo., on April 4.

After returning from a second combat tour in Iraq, Zeigler was shot four times, including once in the head, by another soldier at the Fort Hood Soldier Readiness Processing Center on Nov. 5, 2009. The prognosis doctors gave Zeigler was very grave, and he was not expected to live. Medical professionals believed he would remain in a vegetative state for the rest of his life.

Zeigler defied all odds and relearned to walk, talk and embrace life again. In spite of the extent of his injuries, he relearned to ski at the clinic and participated in scuba diving. The National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic is renowned as a world leader in adaptive sports.

Every year at the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, one participant is chosen to receive the DAV Freedom Award for Outstanding Courage and Achievement. This award is given to the participant who served as an inspiration to all ill and injured veteran athletes throughout the week. The award recognizes a veteran who excels while taking a giant step forward in their rehabilitation process. This is a man or woman who proves to the world that a disability does not define them.

“After arriving at Snowmass, Patrick received devastating news that tragedy struck Fort Hood again,” said Washington Headquarters Executive Director Garry Augustine. “He could have become bitter or given up. But instead, he shared his condolences with the families of Fort Hood victims, addressed the difficulties service members face when returning home from war and shared his positive message of hope for the future.”

Zeigler was joined at the five-day event by his wife, Jessica, and son, Liam, as well as his new service dog, Ranger, which his local DAV Chapter had helped finance through donations from the community.

“It’s just incredible how people come together to honor veterans and service members who have given a lot back to their country,” said Zeigler. “I just want to say thank you, and we love you guys. We really do love the support we get, and it really tugs at your heartstrings and makes you think about what’s so good in the world instead of always what’s so negative.”