04/10/2015 11:44 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Military Members Who Lost Vision While Serving Find 'Life-Altering' Sense Of Purpose Through Sports

At a school in Baltimore, Maryland, blind veterans are partaking in a uniquely therapeutic activity.

This week, a group of active-duty military members and veterans who are blind or have experienced vision loss, are participating in the U.S. Association of Blind Athletes Goalball Camp, hosted by the Maryland School for the Blind. During the event, veterans play goalball -- a demanding sport, in which athletes rely on hearing and touch.

For many of the veterans, the sport, which is exclusively for the blind and those with vision loss, has offered them some motivation.

"I didn't have a purpose. As a matter of fact, I was depressed, didn't know which way to go," Jesse Jones, a Vietnam veteran who is participating in the camp, told WBAL. "This sport can help [blind veterans] get out the house, participate and even meet other veterans."

At the camp, which is run by different goalball coaches, including a few members of the National Team, some participants take part in exercises and learn the sport, while others who are already familiar with goalball further develop their skills, according to a press release for the camp.

The challenging sport, though widely played by blind people of all different backgrounds, was initially created to rehabilitate World War II veterans who were blinded in combat, according to the International Blind Sports Federation. The game consists of two teams, with three players on each side, who wear eyeshades. The objective is to roll the ball, which has a bell inside, into the other team's goal. The sport requires the players to listen intensely to the ball's movements.

It may be a sport, but for those with vision loss, playing goalball can mean so much more.

"These guys come from a military background ... When they lose their vision, they often think all there's left but to sit in a room and maybe listen to an audio book," Matt Simpson of the U.S. Association of Blind Athletes told WBAL. "They get out here ... and they realize not only can they be competitive, but they can work with a group of guys, very similar to that military dynamic and I think that is seriously can be life-altering."

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