Local volunteers take veterans out for ice fishing trip on Lake Granby
Grand County’s mountains are a place of adventure and excitement but for the men who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, who come to Middle Park with veterans’ service organizations like Warrior Bonfire Program, it is a place of quiet respite, a high altitude haven where they can relax and recharge alongside their fellow soldiers.
Last week a group of men who fought in Iraq or Afghanistan, and in many cases both countries, came to Grand County as part of Warrior Bonfire Program’s annual winter retreat to Middle Park. The men are all combat veterans and many have lost limbs while serving their country. Each year Warrior Bonfire Program, a Mississippi based veterans service organization, holds two retreats for veterans in Grand County, one in winter and one in summer.
The group’s winter excursions are filled with skiing, snowmobiling, stops into local restaurants and evenings spent enjoying the camaraderie of other men who have seen combat. As the veterans attending this winter’s retreat wrapped up their week in the high country they spent their final day in Middle Park pulling fish out of Lake Granby with several local ice anglers.
As they reflected on their time a recurring theme emerged amongst the men.
“The activities have all been great,” Joshua Ferguson, a retired Army airborne infantryman and veteran of four combat tours, said. “But as excellent as they have been it is hanging around with these chuckle heads that has been the best part.”
Ferguson nodded to the other veterans sitting nearby as they watched their fishing lines disappear into ice holes on the lake. The other men shared Ferguson’s view of the week.
“It is great to be out here,” Jeremy Allen Miller, a retired Army infantryman and veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan, said. “When I go on trips like this I get to spend time with my buds. It helps the soul.”
Marine Ryan Garza echoed their sentiments. Garza did four tours in Helmand Province of Afghanistan working mostly on a sweep team that searched for IED’s with metal detectors.
“It feels amazing to be out here,” Garza said. “I want to make as many connections as I can so I can reach out to my other wounded warrior buddies and help get them out on these types of trips. These events have helped me go out and have a good time, rather than just beating myself up all the time. I want to make connections to help other wounded warriors be as happy as I am now.”
The connection between the veterans, and the opportunity to relax and fellowship with each other was, “refreshing” in Ferguson’s word.
“When you get out [of the military], and get away from that community you miss it,” Ferguson said. “This bond is what makes this special, just linking up with good people.”
After wrapping up their fishing excursion Friday the veterans enjoyed a long soak in the Hot Sulphur Springs hot springs before returning to their homes on Saturday.
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