Army veteran Kurt Glass remembers watching his father fish on the creek with a rod and reel. Wanting to participate, Kurt made his own pole using a tree limb and cord, tying a small minnow to the end. While his dad and others waited for that elusive bite, Kurt was pulling in a two-pound fish with his unique contraption.
“I was walking down the road like Huckleberry Finn,” Kurt says. “That’s what started me right there. On the weekends, I’d spend the night by the river or stay with a friend who had a houseboat, and I’d just fish and catfish.”
In 1965 he entered the Army. Three years later he was exiting a helicopter in Vietnam and hurt his back. For over ten years he experience escalating back pain and underwent three surgeries. The third one left him paralyzed from the waist down when the surgeon nicked his spinal cord and left a blood clot at the base of his spine.
He was in the hospital for seven and a half months, and while he was there PVA showed up to help. “They walked me through the benefits process, and then I found out there were all of these Paralyzed Veterans sports programs that covered about anything you wanted to do.”
Kurt saw an opportunity to get back into his passions of hunting and fishing, even from a wheelchair. He started volunteering with the Southeastern chapter of PVA, serving as a board member and treasurer.
He also worked with the Army Corps of Engineers in Savannah, Georgia, to use Corps property to set up a hunting course that incorporates wheelchair accessible ramps. “The Corps took us under their wing and broke their backs helping us build the hunting course,” Kurt says. “All a Paralyzed Veterans chapter needs to do is contact the Corps and ask them to set up hunting and fishing areas, and they’ll do it.”
Kurt has been named PVA Bass Tour's Angler of the Year numerous times and gave one of the boats he won to the Southeastern chapter to raffle off.
“It doesn’t mean that I’m great; I just happened to be lucky,” Kurt says. “These guys and girls [veterans] can do the same thing and win as much as I have.”
Despite Kurt’s success, still more fulfilling to him is having the opportunity to help others – whether part of the Southeastern chapter, the wounded warriors at Fort Gordon, or the veteran community at large – to escape from what may be some dark places and discover that nearly all sports and activities are not only available and accessible to them but can also serve as a form of therapy.
“Just to get them out in Mother Nature to hear the owls and ducks and watch the fish jump, it calms your brain and soothes your nerves and body,” Kurt says. “It’s good for your soul.”
And now, after having served nearly 20 years in the Army and 29 years with the Southeastern chapter, Kurt is not close to giving up on his passion to help others find therapy through recreation. “We have to keep fighting to make the outside accessible,” he says. “I’m just into hunting and fishing, and I love helping people.”