What a wonderful, helpful, healing, and enlightening week. The work Fred is doing to bring together men and women with common experiences is genius! When you connect with someone else who shares these common experiences, the good, the bad, and the ugly, something magical happens.
The conversations I have had and witnessed this week have been amazing. I hear (and have made plans myself) so many women planning for future meet-ups.
The way I heard about this trip was nothing short of a miracle and it couldn’t have happened at a better time in my life.
Thanks to everyone who had a part in paying it forward and making this happen for all of us.
I want to convey my deepest gratitude for this experience. I also wish I could use words that convey the magnitude of my feeling.
A disclaimer: I was terrified to come because I am not a camper or a joiner. On this last night, I can tell you that I am still not a camper, nor much of a joiner. Nonetheless, I am indescribably grateful to my fellow women for carrying my weight. I keep myself away from situations where I don’t carry my load: being diminished and needing help is piercingly uncomfortable. Still, my roommate was gracious to basically do all the camp set up — the tent and cot assembly, and even helping me load my personal bag.
Also, what will endure for me is the intimate sharing I experienced. I have felt love and deep gratitude from the selfless spirit. Thank you too for your generosity in permitting me to have this experience.
All I can say is Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!
This is/was the most eventful, wonderful, challenging adventure in my life! Speaking for all of the women who have no voices, this trip was a long time coming. What a generous and kind man Fred is, to think of us women! Our voices are always muffled amongst the male veteran’s program and we get left behind. Thank you Fred for thinking of us! There was so much camaraderie and teamwork during this trip. Absolutely no one was left behind, we all had the wonderful opportunity to experience something new and with other sisters! This can be marked off of my bucket list! Please, please, pour in more support for women veterans, we do not want to get left behind — just think…riding on Category 5 rapids at the age of 52!!! Yea!! Go Fred!!
Not all wounds are visible!
Like some others, I was hesitant to commit to coming to Utah on a rafting trip. Like many of the women involved, I thought it might be beyond my ability to deal with, physically and emotionally.
What a remarkable journey it was! Without any pressure to do anything particularly physical or potentially scary, I’ve watched other women step up beyond what they expected to do, but not beyond their ability. It feels good to not be told “Oh, you can’t do that” these days.
Fred has done an incredible thing here, ensuring that we, as women, get a chance to experience something that can’t necessarily be done the normal way, because of the types of disabilities we have, physical, emotional, intellectual. His creation of this trip and carefully orchestrated adventure has been amazing in the way it’s allowed me to expand what I think I can do, what I want to do, how I see others.
And the willingness to let me be myself, to camp away from others or be less than couth in behavior is very warning — there aren’t a lot of groups who are willing to accept people as they are, and it is wonderful to have met one of them.
This was a great experience.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Sometimes I wish I had a missing limb. Not that I minimize such pain, I simply wonder if the public understanding would soothe my soul. I loathe my paralyzing anxiety, my guilt and even at times, my very existence.
Thank you for providing me the opportunity to experience communion and community. As I have listened to my fellow women vets, we seem to share a regular day reality of isolation and loneliness. You provided the opportunity for shared moments of joy and understanding.
Thank you for remembering those of us who are not combat veterans but still have wounds, invisible though they may be.
I really enjoyed the trip so much. It allowed me to relax and free my mind. I really met so many good people. I made some friends. I’m hoping to stay good friends with them all. It allowed me to enjoy myself. I am really glad I came. I recommend anyone to take the trip. I really enjoyed the rapids and jumping into really cold water.
I came all the way from Jacksonville, Fla.
This is my first time at camping, rafting and getting and staying dirty, and last but not least, outdoor potties.
I had a wonderful time and everyone was over the top helpful to me. I have an infection in my spine and am low vision. I felt like a complete handicap when I arrived, but from the very first moment I was encouraged, and motivated to feel I was one of the gang.
The employees were exceptional. The food was wonderful and the care and cooperation they showed for each other was a lovely sight to see. I have now become an experienced camper and plan on doing it every chance I get.
Dear generous, kind, giving Americans,
I have been so blessed by your kind donation to Warriors on Cataract. I can never begin to properly portray the change in my stress level and inner peace I have experienced out here. I haven’t had a lot of strong female friendships since leaving the military. We all reconnected so easily that it was easy to be reminded that a lot of good came from some bad.
Anyway, thank you again for your kindness. Your generosity is making a positive difference.
This is my first rafting trip. I am from Florida. I really enjoyed speaking to different women on a trip. I learned that each of the ladies has different stories but we listened and understood each other.
The trip allowed me to enjoy the nature and surroundings. It allowed me to meditate w/in nature. I really liked the rapids. I have made some relationships that I feel I will carry back to Florida. with me. I really enjoyed myself. It has started a healing process for me.
Thanks for the opportunity to come so far away.
What an absolutely amazing opportunity to share this time with ladies that served for over 3 decades: Vietnam, Desert Storm, OIF & OEF — Army, Navy, Air Force & Marines.
I am grateful for Fred’s inspiration to make this happen and the support and belief of so many other people.
Your blessings have blessed so many.
Thank you for supporting veterans. This trip was very special and allowed us to relax and enjoy our time spent together and share our stories. Your support for this program will help so many veterans face situations that they have encountered during their tour of active service, and enable them to share their experience with others with similar experiences.
Thank you again and God Bless You!
This rafting trip has been amazing. Before I came I was excited and scared. I can’t express enough my gratitude for this opportunity. This has been a once in a lifetime trip. The people I met were great. Being around others is like no other. No one seems to understand better than those who have been where you’ve been. Fred and his crew were amazing. As were the Western crew. I would never have been able to have an experience like this on my own. Also, I am so grateful for this experience and the people that will now be forever in my heart.
Thank you so much for “everything.” It was an amazing trip of nature, camaraderie, cooperation, laughter, fires, song, rafting and lots of water.
We got to bond and talk our stories of military and home life. The rafting guides were fun, happy and a pleasure to be around. The full moon was bright and the stars were many.
The female bonding was great. It’s always hard to get to this level of empathy and to share our stories with our fellow military members.
Thanks to Fred who puts it all together with healing in mind. A great time was had my most and it pushed others beyond their comfort zone which is needed for true healing. Thanks again for all that you do.
I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to be a part of the women veterans river rafting trip. I never would have been able to financially experience this. I’m grateful to the donors, the Western River Outfitters, my recreational therapist, Fred and everyone else who put a lot of time, money and hard work to make this happen. A lot of us who have PTSD disconnect from society and this helps to bring us back together with other people who can relate to us and feel connected again. To feel alive again. Being in nature and getting away from the worries of the world helps me to know I can go back and tackle the issues of life.
This trip was one of the best adventures I have been on since the military. It was nice to get out and feel free for a while. I can not thank you enough for this trip. This adventure has helped me in ways not modern day medicine can. I feel fresh and ready. This was amazing. Thank you again.
This trip was a blessing. I have been stuck in the house for the past year or so dealing with depression. Being on the river allowed for much needed decompression. Thank you for the opportunity to see some amazing scenery and connect with the other veterans. It is great to know I am not alone.
This is my second year on this trip and each year it works as a tremendous stress reliever. It takes away the night terrors and stress of being a combat veteran and acts as a reset button. For the first time in months I had a good nights sleep on the river. Thank you so much for what you do. I reminds me that there are people who still care about the veterans.
What a great chance to experience some of the best things we loved about the military without all the negative experiences. A chance to relax, experience natural stress, and let loose some of the things I’ve held inside. It’s amazing to see people go through a change in just a few days. The crew was great and each day was an adventure.
It’s always a great time when you can reconnect with the guys. For those who don’t know; there is no explaining, for those who know there is no explanation needed. You don’t have that without being on a trip like this. I treasure these times when you can get away from life and be with God in this great land with his great people. This trip has helped put thoughts to rest that return from time to time. This trip brings back the great memories of the camaraderie and brotherhood you only have in those moments of stress (found on the rapids).
Thank you for this opportunity. Thanks to Fred and the OARS/Hatch staff for providing such a great time.
Greetings Supporters of Warriors on Cataract,
The May 6 Special Operations and the May 12 All Woman Wounded Warriors 4 day raft trips were great! These trips go from Moab to Lake Powell on the Colorado River through Canyonlands National Park. They are getting better with each season.
Commercial Outfitter OARS http://www.oars.com/utah/cataractcanyon.htmltook us on the first trip with 2 J rigs and 2 oar rigs. We had 17 Warriors and support crew, plus the OARS guides (who were wonderful. They love what they do and do it well.) There were SpecOps warriors from all over the country.
Commercial Outfitter Western River Expeditions http://www.westernriver.com/trips/cataract/ conducted the All Woman trip. There were 25 women and support crew from the Salt Lake VA Hospital, Denver Vet Center, the Front Range, Wisconsin, and Florida. A number of the women remarked that they wished that their sons and daughters would marry women and men like the Western Guides. The guides were like a warm family of 7. It was cold on the first two days, below freezing at night with frost on the sleeping bags, but the women stood up to the challenge. There were tears of joy and sadness from the women and the guides at the parting at the end of the trip.
Canyonlands Best Western bunked us in on the night before these trips, and the Moab VFW and Elks Club treated us to a BBQ/social. We were overnight guests of Colin Fryer and Charlie Every and were dined at thewww.RedCliffsLodge.com after the trip. A special treat, peaceful, a nice conclusion to the raft trip..
The River was flowing in the mid 20,000 cfs range, not a big river, but good rapids. And wide beaches.
I have included a few of the comments written by the Warriors on the evening of the last river camp.
I picked up 3 disabled Army Brits from the UK on Sunday for the May 30 launch of mostly Cheyenne VA Hospital Warriors. They will spend a few days in Boulder with me and in Moab on both ends of that river trip. On June 6 we launch the 4th and last river trip of this season, mostly Salt Lake VA Hospital Warriors. Tag-a-Long Expeditions http://www.tagalong.com/index.php?page=cato will conduct both of these trips. There will be about 30 Warriors and support crew, plus the Tag guides. Tag has been our wonderful selfless outfitter for the 3 previous years. Warriors on previous trips have been asking to have certain of the Tag guides with whom they are now friends conduct these trips.
The river should be flowing in the high 30,000 range. Combat soldiers like the big water, they are adrenaline junkies.
The All Woman trip struck such a resonance with this greatly under-served population of woman veterans that I would now like to arrange an All Woman 4 day Mountain Camp north of Steamboat Springs in August or September with http://www.steamboatstars.com/ (Steamboat Adaptive Recreational Sports) . The gains and bonding and mutual support and healing on the All Woman raft trip was very significant, more than I see on the mixed manifest trips. STARS put on great 3 day ski camps for us during the past two winters, as well as the Mountain Camp last August. Great outfit, treat us royally.
Thanks for all of your help.
Best of regards,
We are gearing up for the four 4-day Colorado River/Canyonlands National Park whitewater trips this May and early June. It’s a bit chaotic with all of the forms, releases, bookings, travel, etc. The commercial outfitters and motels and others have been wonderful in their support. Because of all of the in-kind contributions, we are greatly stretching your donated dollars.
We will have 3 disabled Brits from the recent conflicts along this year on the May 30 launch. They will bunk in with me in Boulder for a day or so, and then I will take them to Moab a few days before the launch. John Williams of NavTec in Moab will have his guide Trina take the Brits on tours around the Canyonlands area in advance of putting on the river.
I am looking forward to the All-Woman Wounded Warrior May 12 launch. This is new this year. It got quickly booked up, as did the Support-and-Gear crew. My SAG crew is also all female, as are 4 of the 6 Western river guides. Many of these women suffer deep psychological trauma and PTSD from rape and assault in the Military. I think we will see great things out of that trip.
The benefits of these whitewater trips, the camaraderie and support groups that are spontaneously formed up by the Wounded Warriors, were completely unexpected by me. I hear them in the river camps talking their stuff late into the night. These connections and bonds appear to last for some well beyond the raft trips. One of the hazards confronting these vets is the feeling of isolation and abandonment, further contributing to depression. I have mentioned in previous newsletters that we are losing over 8000 vets each year, dying by their own hand – more than we have lost in the decade+ of conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan. A VA therapist that was on board for several of the whitewater trips told me that these soldiers are better healers among themselves than anything that the VA Hospitals can accomplish with their therapy and pharmaceuticals. Another told me that she had had 9 on their High Suicide Risk Watch List, and after the raft trips and some other activities, they graduated all of them off of the List. 9 out of 9!
Thanks for all of your support. It’s going a long way toward bringing these soldiers the rest of the way home.
We had a great 3 day 2nd Annual STARS & Stripes Heroes Camp at Steamboat, compliments of STARS (Steamboat Adaptive Recreation Sports). STARS put us up in premier accommodations (I was in a 3 story 3 BR penthouse overlooking the area and the Gondola Plaza). STARS also furnished lift tickets and all gear down to gloves. The volunteer/instructors were great, really know their stuff, Great attitudes, love their job. I feel the Warriors got a big boost.
We had 20 Wounded Warriors from the Denver, Cheyenne, and Salt Lake VA Hospitals, plus a few more (Michigan, Texas, Florida. Tish Stropes of Hero Miles and Desiree Holley of SOCOM flew then in). 3 wheel chairs, 3 service dogs, 5 and 6 gunshot wounds, PTSD, TBI, blind skier, other injuries. Billy Kidd skied with us.
STARS had an excellent yoga instructor for us Sunday evening between skiing and dinner….and of course, there are outdoor hot tubs.
Steamboat is a great area, a big big mountain. And the weather was perfect, warm and sunny and good snow. Not crowded, almost ski-to-the-lift.
Here’s a newspaper article that was in the Steamboat Today Sunday Supplement
The next events are the four Canyonlands/Colorado River whitewater trips. The May 12 All-Woman trip has struck a resonance. Many of the female Wounded Warriors decline activities that include male Wounded Warriors because they are victims of sexual violence and rape in the Military. Having males on this raft trip would have a chilling effect. So my SAG crew is also all women, and the Western River Expeditions guides may also all be women. I am already overbooked on the SAG crew manifest, and already have 18 women Wounded Warriors manifested (we can take 25). This is a tremendous response, given that we are only in January. One woman is a 74 year old Major.
I expect wonderful healing and bonding and confidence building to come out of that trip.
Thanks for all of your support. I will be putting out a funding request soon to cover this year’s increased expenses (4 raft trips rather than the previous two). Know that, because of all of the in-kind contributions, your dollars stretch by a factor of about 5. Hope you all can continue to support this great effort.
Best of regards,