Military Pride Prevalent for Paralympic Team

Mar 21, 2024
Written by: Kim Fundingsland
Members of the Team USA Paralympic Sled Hockey team acquaint themselves with the ice at the Minot Curling Club. Moments later members of MAFB helped introduce them to the sport of curling. Kim Fundingsland photo

Minot AFB Introduces USA Sled Hockey to Curling

MINOT – The USA Paralympic Sled Hockey team watched intently as Minot Air Force Base curling teams tangled on league semi-final night. They were eager to have MAFB players introduce them to the sport after the last rock was thrown.
Curling is not a sport played by many, but it has a rich tradition and fascinating appeal to those who seek out the opportunity to play.

That list includes MAFB participants in the only military curling league in the U.S., several of whom shared time on the ice with USA Sled Hockey players.

The respect between the two groups was evident immediately. Several Team USA members making their first try at curling were veterans of military service, making for an appreciative bond readily understood by all participants.

“There’s so many people all around the country that want to put that USA jersey on, many of them military guys who fought for our country and made sacrifices,” said Declan Farmer, Olympian from Boulder, Colorado. “It’s definitely a privilege. It’s something special.”

Jen Yung Lee, San Antonio, Texas, and goal tender for the USA team, was among those watching through the glass as the MAFB curlers finished their games. The Army veteran lost his legs in 2009 and did his rehabilitation at Fort Sam Houston in Texas.

A USA Paralympic Sled Hockey player is shown a push pole used to assist in sliding a curling stone toward the scoring rings at the other end of the ice. MAFB airmen assisted in the introductory event at the Minot Curling Club.
Kim Fundingsland photo

“I tried curling and fell in love with the sport and the camaraderie,” said Lee. “Being in the locker room with guys from the Air Force, Army, Marines, and Coast Guard is a team bonding that has really helped me stay with sled hockey.”

The USA team’s introduction to curling happened at the curling club located on the State Fairgrounds in Minot. The following day the USA Men’s Sled Hockey team routed Team Canada in an exhibition game at Minot’s MAYSA Arena.

Having MAFB airmen volunteer to introduce USA Sled Hockey players to curling didn’t come as a surprise to Chris Douglas, Minot. Douglas moved to Minot from Orlando, Florida, eight years ago.

Noting the kind assistance of airmen from MAFB, Douglas said, “The atmosphere in this town is what we were looking for. Minot is one of the greatest communities I’ve ever seen.”

Douglas made the USA Team in 2014 and remains on the roster today. He credits Prairie Grit, an organization dedicated to assisting handicapped in various endeavors, with making a big difference in Minot.

“It is what everyone dreams of having,” remarked Douglas. “My wife and I are going to call Minot home for a very long time.”
USA Team Captain Josh Pauls, Green Brook, New Jersey, had his legs cut off at the knees when he was 10 months old. He made his first national team in 2008-09 and was part of the first world championship team for the U.S. in games held in the Czech Republic. In all, he has been on five gold medal winning teams.

“It never gets old. One of the best traditions we’ve kept is that we always put that USA jersey on together,” said an emotional Pauls. “It’s really a sense of pride, especially having military veterans who thought they’d never be involved in the sport. They are inspiring the next generation.”

You May Also Like…

Honoring Excellence: A look inside Minot Honor Guard

Honoring Excellence: A look inside Minot Honor Guard

MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. --The Airmen who comprise the Minot AFB Honor Guard stand out for their dedication to a distinct mission: delivering premier ceremonial honors, inspiring the nation, and representing all Airmen. This elite team, comprising airmen,...

Being Military Friendly

Being Military Friendly

NDSF Makes Changes for Military Appreciation Day State Fair Manager Craig Rudland has been around the North Dakota State Fair for over 25 years, but 2024 will be his first as Manager. For Charlene Ratliff, Marketing Manager, this will be her first year having planned...

Bielanski at Main Street Books: Get Ready to Laugh and Sing!

Bielanski at Main Street Books: Get Ready to Laugh and Sing!

A toe-tapping good time and a whimsical and fun new band are coming to Minot from Charlotte, North Carolina. Bryan Bielanski, an acoustic rock singer-songwriter is scheduled to perform on Thursday, July 18 at 7:00 p.m. at Main Street Books.This will be Bryan’s first...