Food, fillies and fishing

Trout Unlimited and others treat Wounded Warriors to Valley hospitality last week


A group of disabled veterans from Wyoming and Northern Colorado had the opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors of Carbon County, as well as Valley Hospitality last week.

For three days, the veterans stayed at the Saratoga Hot Springs Resort and were able to take part in workshops to help them cope with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and other wounds of war many veterans must deal with. They also had the opportunity to spend the next day at the Upper Cedar Creek Ranch east of Saratoga for an afternoon spent horseback riding, fishing and relaxing. The entire trip was paid for by donors who volunteered time, money and their property for the group.

For the veterans, the opportunity isn't as much a vacation opportunity as it is a chance for medical therapy, Kristi Ruben, a recreation therapist for the Veteran's Administration Hospital in Cheyenne, said.

For many veterans at the retreat, it is an opportunity to get out and socialize, as well as learn skills to cope with living alone. According to Ruben, among veterans with PTSD and TBI, isolation and social withdrawal are significant problems. Events like the Saratoga trip-billed the Wounded Veteran's Retreat of the Platte Valley-are important therapeutic tools to help wounded warriors in their daily lives.

"For a lot of the veteran population, the group I work with have a lot of chronic health issues, severe mental health disorders and isolation tends to be a huge problem," Ruben said. "The benefits of trips like these is that they get more time then they might in an hour-long group session."

A 2011 study funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services showed that veterans with certain health conditions, including PTSD and TBI, were significantly more prone to social withdrawal and isolation, and such conditions make those veterans four times more likely to become homeless.

Suicide is also common among veterans with PTSD or TBI. One estimate says 22 veterans commit suicide across the U.S. every day.

Services are stretched thin at the Veterans' Administration, and that's why Ruben and the veterans themselves are very appreciative of the Valley community's efforts to put together an event for wounded warriors.

The event has been held for about seven or eight years, according to Tony Seahorn of the Platte Valley Trout Unlimited chapter, an organizer of the event. Seahorn, a former U.S Army officer who was wounded in Vietnam, first organized the program with Trout Unlimited as a way to help fellow veterans.

Other organizations across the Valley also donated time and resources to the Retreat, Seahorn said. Organizations like the Knights of Columbus and the American Legion contributed, as did businesses like the Saratoga Hot Springs Resort, the Whistle Pig Saloon and Hack's Tackle.

Private citizens also help put the event together and welcomed veterans to the Valley. Tom Arthur, owner of the Upper Cedar Creek Ranch, opened his property to organizers and veterans, allowing the group to ride horses, fish and just relax.

Arthur, who has owned the ranch for 24 years and is himself a former U.S. Army infantry officer who served in Vietnam, said he has been opening the ranch up to the group since Trout Unlimited first began organizing the outing. He does it he said because of a strong desire to help out those veterans who need it most.

"Every year we send him (Arthur) a thank-you letter for inviting us up to his ranch," Seahorn said. "Every year, he says that is all he needs".

For the veterans themselves, the event is loved and appreciated. "Every year I have people at the VA center walk up to and ask, 'how can I get on that Saratoga trip?'" Ruben said, adding that support by the entire community in the Platte Valley is very important to the veterans.

James Stout, a wounded veteran, was one of the 11 vets to attend this year. He said he was very fortunate for the opportunity to go on the trip, and thankful to everyone in the community who gave the support to make it happen.

"I needed this because I was isolating a lot," Stout said. "It's just to me like a Godsend."


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