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Military Outreach

USMC veteran Le finds renewed strength, spirit through tennis

April 12, 2013 04:36 PM
USMC sergeant Lam Le has found a new passion in tennis, remaining positive through challenging days.
Sergeant Lam Le (left) and Balboa Tennis Club tennis director Geoff Griffin.
By Steve Kappes, special to USTA.com
 
This August will mark the third year of United States Marine Corps veteran Lam Le’s fight against bone cancer. Despite all the challenges that have come his way, Sergeant Le continues to put a smile on his face and project a warm and positive attitude toward life – one that inspires everyone around him. 
 
Being able to play tennis during his recovery has had a lot to do with that.
 
"Thanks to tennis, I am able to feel confident on my feet again and do things I thought I would never be able to do again," said Le.
 
Le lost his leg to Osteosarcoma, which is defined by an aggressive, malignant growth within the inner bone, while on active duty in 2010. The diagnosis came as a shock, as there was no one on either side of his family who had such a history. At the time, and ever since, Le has refused to let his illness and amputation diminish his previously active lifestyle. 
 
Initially unsure of the boundaries and capabilities of his prosthetic leg and the condition of his overall health, Le began slowly. He started participating in the free, adaptive tennis clinics run by the San Diego District Tennis Association and the Balboa Tennis Club for wounded, ill and injured patients from Naval Medical Center San Diego. But soon, the twice-monthly clinics were not enough for him, and he progressed to playing several hours a day, five days a week.
 
Le has come a long way from when he first stepped on the court two years ago. As a result of playing tennis, he has achieved a healthy weight, increased his strength, improved his mobility and now has excellent cardiovascular fitness for someone who has undergone multiple lung surgeries, also a product of the Osteosarcoma. On the court, his coaches brag about his beautiful and powerful strokes, and they remain amazed by the dedication he puts into the sport. 
 
Geoff Griffin, Balboa Tennis Club’s tennis director, runs the adaptive tennis program with the help of many volunteers, and he has worked with Le at every clinic.
 
"There are so many good reasons for volunteering our time for these outstanding individuals," said Griffin. "Lam Le is one of the great reasons. He has had some tough times with his condition in the past years, but you never hear or see it from him. We have to find out from others how he is doing."
 
Last year, Le also participated in the first National Tennis Camp for Wounded, Ill and Injured Service Members and Veterans in San Diego. The four-day camp culminated in a tournament, with Le taking first place in the advanced division.
 
"Lam is an incredibly positive person," Griffin said. "His developed love for tennis keeps us going and makes us want to help more of the military wounded, ill and injured. His ability to play at a very high level is also an inspiration to other military members and veterans who are trying to adjust to new wheelchairs and prosthetics."
 
For Le, what started as a lifeline toward recovery has become something much bigger – a sport for a lifetime. 
 

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