WHITEFISH – On a recent sunny morning at Whitefish Mountain Resort, Noah Galloway listened as a ski instructor described the basics of gliding down a snow-covered mountain on skis. Galloway, from Alabama, had never skied before and nothing in the past three years had led him to believe that would change anytime soon – until he got in touch with the Wounded Warrior Project.
Galloway lost much of his left arm and left leg in the Iraq war around Christmas of 2005 when a roadside bomb detonated near him. At the time he was serving in the 101st Airborne Division of the U.S. Army. As he prepared to put on his ski gear at the resort on Feb. 5, he was straightforward about his emotions.
“I’m just excited,” he said. “Really excited.”
The Wounded Warrior Project is a nonprofit organization that raises awareness to the needs and plight of the nation’s men and women who have been severely injured serving their country in combat. As part of raising awareness, Wounded Warrior hosts events – like ski trips – that encourage active lives for the injured soldiers. Coming up on Feb. 14, the organization will host a lacrosse game at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, Florida.
Making the trip to Whitefish Mountain Resort were a number of single and double amputees, a paraplegic serviceman and a blind serviceman. In all, seven soldiers arrived on Feb. 4 and stayed for a week. They began skiing on Feb. 5 with adaptive instructors from the resort’s ski and snowboard school. Some used “bi-skis,” which are skis with a seat mounted on them.
Donnie Clapp, the resort’s spokesman, said he was pleased to be part of a program that helps “our men and women in uniform do things they might not have thought were possible after sustaining their injuries.” Talus Outdoor Technologies, a local outdoor gear company, sponsored the event.
Wounded Warrior began in 2002 when a group of veterans was watching the evening news and saw a story about the first wounded service members returning home from Afghanistan and Iraq. According to the organization’s Web site, “They realized then and there that something needed to be done for these brave individuals beyond the brass bands and ticker tape parades.”
The project then was launched as a way to help these wounded veterans heal, both physically and mentally. Among the organization’s features are “Soldier Ride” – a rehabilitative cycling program – and “Warriors to Work” – a program that helps wounded soldiers find a civilian career. It also provides services to help cope with emotional problems associated with combat, like posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Grouse Mountain Lodge provided lodging for soldiers in Whitefish. Two public receptions were held for them over the week they were in town, as well as a farewell party at the Whitefish VFW on Tuesday, Feb. 10. They left the next day. Kimberly Barreda, one of the event’s organizers, said the timing of the soldiers’ stay was apt, as it coincided with the Whitefish Winter Carnival, one of the biggest events in town.
“It worked out perfect,” she said.
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