'Thanks USA' holds tennis clinic to help disabled veterans

'Thanks USA' holds tennis clinic to help disabled veterans. (ABC7 photo)

Aaron Brooks needs some assistance to approach the net. But once there, he's ready to take a swing at a tennis ball.

"I thought it would be fun to play tennis and a new sport. Because of my injury, I haven't been able to play sports," said Brooks.

Brooks was a specialist in the Army, deployed in Iraq. His life changed in 2013, not overseas, but back home.

"I had a PTSD episode and I shot myself in the head," said Brooks.

Now he lives with a traumatic brain injury. But he survived, so he wants to keep living.

An organization that provides scholarships to military spouses and children called 'Thanks USA' held a tennis clinic in Boyds, hosted by a pro who knows how to serve.

"After I learned how to play tennis, people weren't looking at me like they had before. That's how it really changed my life, my self-esteem, my confidence," said Brenda Gilmore, the executive director of Prince George's County Tennis Education.

Gilmore was involved in a crash that left her in a wheelchair. That was in 1979. Now her swing is a hit for others in a similar seat.

"It kind of feeds my soul. I feel like being able to be active and do things that I enjoy is empowering," said Dawn Halfaker, who lives with one arm following a deployment.

Brooks was happy he made a decision to step away from rehabilitation to play tennis.

"I don't have any self-esteem issues, but to be active is something I want to do," said Brooks.

It is the first time for 'Thanks USA' to take a swing at using tennis to help our nation's disabled veterans. After today, they plan to do it again.

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