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Meet the synchronized swimming team at the Milwaukee VA

Posted at 5:52 PM, Mar 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-07 13:39:51-05

MILWAUKEE — At the bottom of a Milwaukee VA, Groucho Marx glasses-wearing veterans are moving entirely in sync in a pool.

"One, two, three, four," they all chant in unison.

Meet the Milwaukee veteran synchronized swimmers.

"I thought you got to be kidding me. That's the last thing in the world I expected," Bill Fenton, a veteran and member of the synchronized swim team said.

Fenton never expected it, but he did end up liking it.

"But it was quite enjoyable," he said.

It was all part of the group's recreational therapy. These veterans have spinal cord injuries. It's easier for them to do their exercises in the pool.

"The spinal cord injury population might not have balance or mobility like you or I, and when you are in the water, gravity doesn't do what it does when you're not in the water, so they have no fear of falling," recreational therapist at the VA, Joyce Casey, said.

When not synchronized swimming, they walk back and forth with the help of kickboards and use weights with foam on either end for water resistance training.

"The purpose of the group is to work on some different skills such as perhaps balance, coordination," Casey said.

It's a more comfortable place for these veterans to exercise, fellow synchronized swimmer, Richard Arndt, said.

"When you're in the pool when you're exercising, if you fall over, it's okay," he said.

That's important for people who have limited mobility and balance.

The synchronized swimming was more of a one-off thing. Casey, the recreational therapist, came up with the idea, and the veterans obliged. However, it turned out the group of guys enjoyed it.

"It was fun. It was fun," Arndt said.

As for the Groucho Marx glasses, that was out of necessity.

"Why else would we put on those fake noses and stuff? Because we don't want to be recognized," Arndt said, laughing.

So much for that. The original video was posted on Facebook, and then TMJ4 saw it. After that, no disguise could hide these synchronized swimming veterans from the news.

It speaks to something more significant at the VA, though. There are many unique groups like this participating in adaptive sports for recreational and physical rehab purposes.

Arndt said he's incredibly thankful for all the opportunities he's been afforded.

"It's worth every tax dollar that you spend."

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