Since, 2004, the Vail Veterans Program has been transforming military injured and their families through individualized, world-class outdoor programs building confidence and life-long relationships. In January 2013, the Vail Veterans Program hosted 28 veterans, 28 guests and five staff from the three major military hospitals. In fact, 14 of the 28 veterans who attended have suffered multiple-limb loss. “That family experience is essential to getting wounded vets back on their feet,” said Tiffany Smith, a therapeutic recreation specialist at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. The Vail Veterans Program participants include United States military personnel who have been severely injured while serving our country. Most veterans who participate in the programs come directly from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland; Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas; and the Naval Medical Center in San Diego, California.
The program hosts two winter events that include downhill skiing, snowboarding and cross-country skiing for wounded warriors and their families. Staff Sergeant (SSG) Matt Keil says, “I was shot in the neck by a sniper in Iraq. I am now a quadriplegic confined to a wheelchair. I attended the Vail Veterans Program with other disabled veterans. For a brief time, we felt free from our injuries and were able to heal by sharing stories. The program showed us that no matter what happened in our lives, we could tackle anything we wanted and that our personal sacrifices will never go unnoticed and are deeply appreciated.”
“The Vail Veterans Program helped my whole family. I can’t put it in words to explain how good it felt to see my family enjoying life after I almost lost mine,” declared SSG Robert Henline.
Since its inception, the Vail Veterans Program has hosted more than 1,000 soldiers and their families in their program entirely free of charge thanks to donors, volunteers and the Vail community. “Even though I don’t participate on the mountain, working with our vets at Denver International Airport are some of the most inspiring days of my year. They remind me how very blessed I am to live in this country,” said Jan Mazotti, president and editor-in-chief of ICOSA.
Corporal Mark Litynski believes, “The week in January was life changing for me and for so many others!”
To learn more about The Vail Veterans Program, visit http://vailveteransprogram.org/.