Local foundation focuses on positive life stories to support veterans coming back into civilian life
As American veterans have returned home from foreign fields of war there has been a proliferation of service organizations and nonprofits aimed at supporting their transitions to civilian life.
One such local organization, the Warrior Saber Foundation, formed earlier this year by Marine Corps veteran and Grand County resident Shawn Wentz, looks to address the issues service members face from a different angle. Its goal is to extol and highlight individuals locally and nationwide who have already successfully transitioned to civilian life and use them as role models to support other veterans.
“Our mission is to seek out, locate and recognize United States veterans that have made a noteworthy transition from warrior to civilian,” Wentz said.
Wentz, who served as an infantryman during the mid-1990s, created Warrior Saber Foundation at the beginning of 2019. It developed out of his personal experiences, having met veterans who were leading successful and engaged lives as civilians. He wanted to create something that focused on success stories and not dwell on the negative aspects.
“I am trying to focus on the positive as a solution to our current challenges as a nation with veterans,” he said. “I am all for other organizations that support vets, but I got tired of hearing about the negative, I wanted to focus on something positive. I meet deserving vets every day.”
Warrior Saber Foundation highlights successful veterans through saber presentation ceremonies. The foundation purchases historic display sabers that are presented to selected veterans. So far, Wentz has presented two veterans with sabers and has plans to present four more by the end of the year.
His first saber presentation was in Lake Havasu, Arizona, when Wentz presented Marine veteran Natalie Marcom with a U.S. Marine Corps noncommissioned officer’s sword.
Wentz continued his campaign closer to home on Saturday when he presented Granby native, U.S. Army infantryman and Vietnam veteran Paul Stuart with a 19th century U.S. Army cavalry sword at Stand Firm CrossFit gym in Granby.
“It is a little bit humbling but it feels good,” Stuart said. “It makes you feel good to remember the guys that died over there. This way, their memory is still around.”
Born and raised in Granby, Stuart served as an infantry soldier in Vietnam from late 1967 through late 1968 and was stationed not far outside of Bien Hoa. After completing his tour, Stuart returned home and began working at the Granby Dairy. Several years later, he and two other employees of the dairy purchased the business and continued to operate it for 30 years before eventually selling to Meadow Gold.
“For about 30 years, if you drank a glass of milk in Grand County, we delivered it,” he said proudly.
Stuart’s experiences in war and his subsequent successful civilian life represented the sort of figure Wentz hoped to honor through his foundation.
Stuart attributed his success to his parents — “the best you could have,” he said of them — and the supportive community to which he came home.
“When you came home from Vietnam, you weren’t proud,” Stuart admitted, an air of pain in his voice. “People didn’t think it was cool. But it wasn’t that way up here. Coming back to this community, with such good people here, it was easier than a lot of other guys had it.”
To help support Wentz’s foundation, Stand Firm CrossFit will participate in a nationwide Memorial Day event on Saturday, May 25 called a Hero Workout. The workout, which is held in honor of Navy Seal veteran and Medal of Honor recipient Michael Murphy who died in combat in Afghanistan in 2005, will include a timed one-mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups and 300 squats.
There is a $20 entry fee and proceeds will go to the Warrior Saber Foundation. The public is welcome to participate in the event, which is set to begin at 8 a.m.
Wentz’s first donation to the foundation was from his father-in-law, who is a Korean War veteran. But Wentz has used his own money to purchase the swords, as well as for travel-related expenses. The foundation is currently seeking official nonprofit status from the federal government and state of Colorado.
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