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Redskins Host 'Rehabbing With the Troops'

Once they were soldiers. Now they are searching for a new purpose.

Enter Greg Zinone.

Last November, Zinone and his wife Addie launched "Rehabbing With the Troops," a 6-week virtual rehabilitation program for wounded soldiers to work out via webcam with other soldiers and professional athletes using a Nintendo Wii.

The program is part of Zinone's successful Pro vs. G.I. Joe non-profit venture.

On Nov. 16 at Redskins Park, Zinone and 25 wounded warriors from Walter Reed Army Medical Center and DeWitt Army Community Hospital at Fort Belvoir kicked off "Rehabbing With the Troops" at Redskins Park.

Ten flat-screen TVs, each equipped with Nintendo Wii, were set up in the Redskins Park cafeteria for the event. Cameras were positioned throughout the cafeteria so that wounded soldiers at medical centers as far away as San Diego and San Antonio could join in.

Joining in were Redskins fullbacks Mike Sellers and Darrel Young, safeties Reed Doughty and Kareem Moore and long snapper Nick Sundberg, among others.

For 30 minutes, they completed a series of football-oriented virtual workouts, including running the 40-yard dash, throwing a football and kicking a field goal.

"Look at this �?? the guys are having a blast and they're going to be sweating in five minutes," Zinone said.

Many wounded soldiers returning from a tour overseas have difficulty reintegrating into civilian life. Some have disabilities that require a significant adjustment.

The goal of "Rehabbing With the Troops" is to help ease the transition, Zinone said.

Even if it really is just a video game.

"This helps rejuvenate the spirit," he said. "A lot of these guys are out of the military now and they had been in the military since they were 17 or 18 years old. That's all they know. Now they don't have it and they need something.

"This is a different kind of rehab. We're not trying to reinvent the wheel. It may be just a video game, but there's a lot more to it. It's about what the game does for them mentally and physically on all levels. This can turn their life around."

The USO has been actively involved in Pros vs. G.I. Joes and "Rehabbing With the Troops" because it supports its core mission to provide morale, welfare and recreational services to military personnel.

Jackie Green, a hospital services specialist with the USO, said "Rehabbing With the Troops" allows wounded soldiers to learn a new type of physical fitness and recreational activity.

"We have feedback from guys �?? they were depressed, they felt like they didn't have anything going on in their life, but because of this program they felt like they had a purpose," Green said. "They're learning a new hobby and they're learning how to reintegrate doing recreational activities.

"It has been a huge tool in their recovery and their family's recovery as our service members come back home."

As part of the 6-week program, the soldiers are required to do a certain amount of workouts and be very active online by posting videos and writing blogs.

"Being able to incorporate a workout that involves video gaming in a group workout has been of interest to our wounded warrior population," Green said. "We involve family members in the group workouts has been exciting. And knowing that they can compete against athletes online and in person really helps motivate our warriors."

Added Zinone: "Just looking at their faces, it means a lot to them."

At Redskins Park, players worked out side by side with the soldiers and offered words of encouragement.

When a Wii version of Brian Orakpo appeared on the television screen and starting barking out instructions for the next workout, Doughty couldn't help chuckling.

"For NFL players, is that [workout] going to get you ready for football season? Probably not," Doughty said. "But for somebody coming back from an injury or trying to get back into shape, definitely."

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