We have successfully completed our 4th trip to ski at Granby Ranch in Granby, Colorado and every year gets better and better! This year we added an extra day because the feedback from past years was that there wasn’t enough time together. The activities we have always done on this trip by nature are very individualized, skiing, snowmobiling, and tubing, which has it’s benefits mentally but doesn’t allow much in the way of building the group as a solid entity. We say we are in the customer service business, so we listened and added more time!
Many times on this trip and with all our other trips we hear the words, “This is the best week of my life” from those attending. It is partially due to all the fun stuff we do but mostly because of the combination of the recreational activities and the therapeutic conversations that occur. There are many organizations out there doing one or the other, but we intermingle the two for the most optimum experience and growth. While up in the Rockies, we skied, snowmobiled, went snow tubing and flew over the Rockies with private flights provided by Craig “Sweat” Kauber who is a retired Naval Aviator that flew F18 Hornets and now has a very cool RV8 that is painted in the scheme of his old squadron.
We also visited with Project Sanctuary and founding member of the R4 Alliance, Heather Ehle, for a dinner during one of their family retreats and serenaded the crowds with the voices of these fine Purple Heart veterans doing karaoke! “Hello” by Adelle needs to not be sung by anyone but her, or “It’s Raining Men” for that matter. Our last day took us to the hot springs to rest and ease the sore muscles from skiing.
Every year our group splits into two for ski lessons. One group of three that have gained very impressive limbs head over the National Sports Center for the Disabled to have 3 full days of individual private ski instruction. Some of these men used to ski all the time but since their injury have not ventured to try it again. For Jesse Clingman it had been 20 years since he skied and that was with two legs. Now as a below the knee amputee, he is amazed that he had the chance and was able to do it again! It’s hard to imagine the feeling of getting something back that you thought you would never have again, and this is what this particular trip does for some of these individuals.
"Omg, I really needed this and to be around veterans that have gone through some of the same things as I have has been a blessing to me just for the fact I'm never around so many in one place, thank you!" Purple Heart Jesse Clingman
We are careful not to share private information and personal breakthroughs that we see occur on our trips but here is an example from the view point of one of our Board of Adviser members, Eric Zeek that attended as a support leader this year and last year, as to what he observed of one of the veterans that came both years as well. “Last year he was quiet and did not participate much in the therapeutic conversations but this year he stood out as a leader, was vocal and was giving advice to the others on benefits.” The growth that is achieved doesn’t happen in one week, but it starts a process that we like to call Post Traumatic Growth.
Last but not least, once again we see on our Bonfire Adventure events a common theme that amazes us time and time again and this past trip to Granby, Colorado was more powerful than ever! The desire and ability of our veterans that have sustained injuries in combat, to instantly rally around others in a time of need, is incredible. On every trip we have someone that gets bumped or bruised or hits an emotional brick wall as the intensity of therapeutic conversations increase. Because all of the men have been to the bottom and back, they drop everything in a heartbeat to help their comrades, right then and there. It’s simply powerful and heartwarming!
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