Bismarck Veteran Knows No Barriers
In September, a group of veterans with disabilities gathered in the Red Feather Lakes region of Colorado to challenge themselves, overcome barriers and discover what’s within them is stronger than what’s in their way. One of those veterans was David Skalicky, a 53-year-old Bismarck resident who retired from the U.S. Army National Guard in 2016 after 33 years of service.
In 2010, Skalicky deployed to Kosovo, where he worked with distinguished visitors. While deployed, he was involved in a car accident that resulted in degenerative injuries to his lower back and knee, leaving him 30 percent disabled.
“I woke up the next day, and I fell out of bed. I went to stand up, and I fell down,” Skalicky says. “A few months after I returned home, my sciatic nerve started phasing out.”
Skalicky hasn’t let his injuries slow him down. This fall, he attended the No Barriers Warriors program, which allows veterans to participate in outdoor expeditions that challenge them mentally and physically and help them to transform their lives.
“Through the Warriors program, No Barriers has been working with veterans with disabilities for years,” says No Barriers USA Co-Founder Erik Weihenmayer. “We’ve seen the transformation that takes place when veterans are able to overcome the mental and physical challenges involved in one of our expeditions, and then apply the skills they’ve learned to the challenges faced in their day-to-day lives.”
In partnership with its customers and No Barriers USA, CoBank, a cooperative bank serving agribusiness, rural infrastructure providers and Farm Credit associations, sponsored veterans from rural areas across the United States to participate in the Warriors program in 2017.
Cooperatives and other CoBank borrowers nominated veterans from their communities to participate in the program. Capital Electric Cooperative (CEC) nominated Skalicky.
“Capital Electric is proud of our nation’s veterans. When approached, we jumped at the opportunity to nominate a veteran from our service area for this outstanding program,” says CEC General Manager Paul Fitterer. “Veterans have sacrificed their time and bodies for military service. This CoBank-sponsored expedition series allowed us to show our appreciation to an incredible man who dedicated more than 30 years of his life to serving our country.”
No Barriers Warriors’ expeditions are described as one part adventure, one part curriculum and one part physical challenge. The CoBank-sponsored expedition series included activities specially designed to accommodate participation by veterans with disabilities, such as mountaineering, rafting and rock climbing.
Despite the physical challenges, Skalicky says he felt at home in the mountains.
“It was a beautiful setting in the Rocky Mountains. And that, to me, is peace,” Skalicky says. “I was born in Montana and raised between California and Wyoming. And although we’ve lived in North Dakota for 16 years, the mountains still seem like home. You can take the boy out of the mountains, but you can’t take the mountains out of the boy.”
There’s a good chance Skalicky will find himself in the mountains again. Climbing Kilamanjaro is on his bucket list, and he hopes to continue his involvement in the No Barriers program as a peer mentor.
He offers this advice to future program participants. “Come for the experience. Come to reset. Come to reflect. Set some long-term goals that are very personal. This is the place where you can really do that. You get in an environment like this, and every night you have a different exercise that you do – past, present and future. It’s very contemplative. You have the time and the space and the arena to really reflect.”
Skalicky lives in Bismarck with his wife of 30 years, Sue. Together they have seven children – John, CJ, Caty, Bre, Alex, Silas and Erica.