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Operation Vacation: Military couple enjoys kicking back at Winter Park

Stephanie Miller
Sky-Hi Daily News
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Jerad and Alaina Davis looked snug and relaxed as they sat on the couch with their feet up, watching TV shows on a flat screen television. The living room’s sliding door led outside to the patio, where thick snowflakes were creating a white blanket on the Jacuzzi cover.

“I can’t wait to get into that,” Alaina said, her eyes wide. Jerad nodded, glancing up at the TV screen now and then.

“We don’t have a TV, or a Jacuzzi at home. Now we have both,” she added, grinning. “Oh, you have no idea.”

Jerad, 23, and Alaina, 21, were spending the weekend in a condo at Slopestyle Village, located in Old Town Winter Park. Their visit is courtesy of Destinations West and Operation Vacation, a nonprofit organization that began in Glenwood Springs and provides military families with free vacations in mountain communities.

Every month since July of last year, DiAnn Butler, Grand County coordinator of Operation Vacation and owner of Destinations West property management, has arranged for a military couple or family to spend a weekend in Grand County. The soldiers chosen for the free getaway are stationed in Fort Carson, near Pueblo, and Butler helps arrange their itinerary and lodging through Destinations West and local sponsors.

Jerad and Alaina had a full weekend ahead of them: One hour massages at Massage Beach in Fraser; swimming and activities at Snow Mountain Ranch/YMCA of the Rockies; and free meals at Carver’s Bakery, Mountain Rose Cafe, the Untamed Southwest Grill, Hernando’s Pizza and Fontenot’s.

This was the first time the Davises have vacationed in Winter Park, which they both agreed is “beautiful.” The two are newlyweds who first met on MySpace while Jerad was stationed in Afghanistan.

For nine months they exchanged e-mails and messages. When Jerad returned to the U.S., he was stationed at Fort Drum, N.Y. ” five minutes from Alaina’s home. When they decided to meet, he picked her up and they went bowling with some friends.

They hit it off, Alaina said, and were married April 19, 2007. So far, married life is good, she added.

“We have the same ideas on a lot of things, so it works out,” Alaina said. “So it’s not that big of a change of pace at all.”

“And I still get to go fishing,” Jerad added, shrugging. Alaina punched his shoulder.

The couple drove from Colorado Springs on Friday with Home James. Jerad has been stationed at Fort Carson since November and has served in the military for almost five years. He spent roughly one year in Afghanistan, re-arming Apache helicopters.

Although Jerad traveled among four different bases, he didn’t see much action, he said.

“We got mortared once or twice a week,” he admitted.

His wife made a face, and explained more dramatically that this meant Jerad’s station was almost blown up every week. She encouraged Jerad to provide more details about his job, but he was tight-lipped about the experience. He added, however, that he liked his job.

“He had the shakes for months, and didn’t eat a whole lot when he came back,” Alaina said.

“I was just readjusting to being back,” Jerad added. “I grew up somewhere where the world moves at slow pace.”

Jerad is originally from Pueblo, but was raised in the small town of Beulah; he and Alaina moved to Colorado Springs in November to be closer to his family.

Alaina is working on finishing her physical education and business recreation management degree, while Jerad is working for the Army and enjoying 12 months of stabilization.

After that, he is deployable again for Afghanistan for another year. That makes Alaina nervous, she admitted.

“I don’t know how to explain it. When you enter that bond with someone, you’re missing out on part of your life with each other when they’re gone for that long,” she said. “You both change. They come back and it’s kind of like you’re dating again.”

Alaina added she hopes to start a family before Jerad is deployed again.

“That way, I know I have something close to my heart that’s both of ours, in case something goes wrong.”

Jerad smiled and shook his head.

“It’s all attention to detail. People get hurt when they get complacent,” he said, referring to his field. “I don’t mind deploying. I know my job, and everyone else knows their job.”

“Accidents do happen, even if people know their jobs,” his wife interjected, then paused. “But one good thing is I get to travel with my husband.”

She was really looking forward to skiing, she added.

“I can’t wait to hit the slopes. I’m just afraid he’s going to break himself,” she said, turning a sideways smirking glance towards her husband. He just kept smiling. This would be his first time snowboarding at a “real” mountain.

“I know I’m going to fall down,” he said.


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