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!
Click here to see more pictures of the event
Being a leader at Bovina Elementary in Vicksburg, Mississippi is taken rather seriously and the Warrior Bonfire Program was honored to be chosen to benefit from all these 6th graders taking charge! Bovina Elementary is officially a Lighthouse school participating in the Leader In Me program. They are among the first in the state of Mississippi to have gained this recognition. Every month the 6th grade class chooses a non profit organization to receive funds and awareness. The Warrior Bonfire Program felt privileged to be the focus for the beginning of 2016!
Throughout the month of January, led by 6th grade teacher Torri Ghrigsby and her fellow teachers, helped the students learn about our Purple Heart Veterans, the history of the medal and how the medal is awarded. Purple Heart tributes were displayed throughout the school. They also learned of the traumas and lasting effects that our veterans experience and as a community how they can best support those that have sacrificed so much for their freedoms. The entire student body participated in the opportunity to be able to wear blue jeans on Wednesdays for $1.00 or have "free dress" for $3.00 to raise funds to help support post 9/11 Purple Heart Veterans to go on our Bonfire Adventure event trips! What a fun idea!?
Purple Heart Recipient and WBP Board of Directors Member, CJ Stewart was onsite to visit with the 6th grade class to share his personal account of his injuries sustained in Afghanistan. Stewart also talked about values and responsibilities in leadership. CJ Stewart is the founder of Camp Down Range working with teenagers in leadership and team building skills. On behalf of all of us at the Warrior Bonfire Program, Stewart received a check $736.00! Thank you to all the students, parents, teachers, administrators and community leaders who helped make this happen for us by giving your children the support to lead by actively getting involved.
The 6th grade class took their appreciation of our members one step farther in wishing our last bonfire trip and wonderful week of skiing, via social media messaging! Thank you again and we can't wait to see what type of leaders you become in the future!
WBP Team writers
Blogs are written by staff members of the Warrior Bonfire Program along with guest writers.