Our first Bonfire in Utah has been burned and we hope this particular fire will spread! Unlike the wildfires that this part of the country typically has to fight, our Bonfire creates life and healing. Our stay at Sportsman’s Paradise at Whites Ranch in Paradise, Utah provided the optimum spot for “Reel Recovery”! Our Purple Heart Veterans were welcomed to fly fish at any time of the day at this catch and release facility which provided unbelievable peace from the enormous stresses and anxieties of the world.
"This is an great facility and is perfect what we are trying to do at our Bonfire events." Purple Heart WBP Ambassador Stacey Rice
Along with great peace we found empowerment through the message of Adapt and Overcome as we blazed trails through the mountains on horseback! Due to the generosity of Utah State Universities’ Extension services and their Ride Utah program, the Warrior Bonfire veterans had two days of trail rides with horses particularly matched with the veterans’ needs. The time and care taken to match horse to veteran, created a safe environment that fostered trust and comfort. Horseback riding as a therapy is one of the very best tools for both physical and mental injuries. While on horseback, the rider must find confidence and be able to let go or control his or her anxieties in order for the horse to follow commands. Horses can sense the rider’s inner being and will gladly take control if the rider does not. The trail ride experience forces the rider to focus on the task at hand which eliminates the ability to think about other things, especially negative things. Learning this mindset as a tool to manage challenges due to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injuries and major physical injuries, offers our veterans the ability to get out more often and experience life, find purpose and once again give of themselves to society for the greater good.
For combat veterans with PTSD, TBI and physical injuries, managing every day stresses brought on by political arguments, opinions on social media, traffic noise, financial pressure, marital stress and many other things that may be out of their ability to control, can be suffocating. Therefore, providing opportunities to disconnect yet be connected at the same time with those just like themselves can be an incredible life saver.
“To be around other Purple Hearts is so good because I feel like they are just like me and I don’t feel like I’m being judged.” Purple Heart Participant (to remain anonymous)
Activities on our trips offer new tools and experiences but the most powerful thing we offer is the small group environment made up of all vetted Purple Hearts. This platform creates a comfortable
space which encourages these men and women to talk through and share their burdens without feeling judged or that their struggles aren’t real because everyone there has felt the same. Throughout the weekend issues that are heavy and full of guilt, anger, and frustration quickly become small and manageable as the veterans all remind each other of their strength and ability to persevere. The conversations of war stories, the good ones and often funny ones, returns them to a time before they were injured, a time where only life and death mattered and there was no room to worry about all the other little things in life. In an odd way, it was all simpler. This reminder has an empowering effect; it reminds them that they are in fact in control of many things and to focus only on what they can control. Here among brothers they return to the image of the strong warrior, they are uplifted, they are at peace and they stand ready to face the demons ahead.
Visit our photos from this event and check out the superb services from our two sponsors for this trip. We couldn't have done it without their support!
WBP Team writers
Blogs are written by staff members of the Warrior Bonfire Program along with guest writers.