Disabled combat veterans seek solace in Sun Valley

Published: Mar. 6, 2017 at 8:22 PM MST
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A group of combat veterans and their spouses are in Sun Valley this week as part of Higher Ground's military camp.

One of those veterans is Justin Patterson - a retired Army sergeant.

"It's incredible to come together with the brothers again."

The military camp is part of Higher Ground Sun Valley's therapeutic recreation program.

Higher Ground's mission is to use therapeutic recreation to facilitate a change in perspective for injured service members.

"It's not just a one week vacation," says Higher Ground's director of military programs Monty Heath.

Heath is a veteran himself, serving 11 years in the Navy SEALs.

"They learn a lot of communication skills and relationship skills and coping skills to deal with their Post–Traumatic Stress, Traumatic Brain Injury," said Heath.

Higher Ground's military program allows veterans to get out on the mountain and get lost in sport – something Justin says he wouldn't be able to do otherwise.

"On a soldier's budget, or a veteran's budget, you don't get to experience this at all. It's the sad truth that we don't make a lot of money retired," said Patterson.

"Not only are we doing the recreational activities, but we have rec therapists on staff, mental health professionals on staff so that when we talk a little bit deeper and go below the surface, we have the people on site that can do that," said Heath.

"When you leave the service, it's like a vacuum. It's like coming out into a place that's unknown to you because of the bond we talked about kind of goes away," said Jose Rodriguez Fabiani, a 42-year service-member.

"People ask why do we do it, why do we help out? I think veterans deserve it the most. A veteran is someone who signed their name on the dotted line, on the blank check which could be cashed in for an eye or an ear or a leg or an arm or your life. I think they deserve it the most, I think they deserve our help the most," said Heath.