Veterans Spend Down Time Tubing with Spouses, Guests

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

VAIL, Colo., March 10, 2007 - After two days of skiing and snowboarding, last night was all about fun for the 25 injured veterans participating in the Vail Veterans Program here and their guests.

The group headed to Vail Mountain's Adventure Ridge for some snow tubing, ski biking, dinner and bonding. The activity was designed as a way for them to relax and have fun as a group, Cheryl Jensen, director of the Vail Veterans Program, said.

"This is a time where they can all be together because they're so separated on the mountain doing their individual activities," Jensen said, adding that it was an opportunity for a few who hadn't been to the top of the mountain yet to take in the vistas. "It's just fun and relaxation, and it's so much fun to see them all interacting with each other."

Activities like this also allow the spouses to bond, which they have very little time for while they're at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, in Washington, with their loved ones, Josie Salzman said. Her husband, Army Sgt. J.R. Salzman, lost his right arm below the elbow in Iraq on Dec. 19.

"You see (the other spouses) at Walter Reed," Josie said. "But you're so focused on him and taking care of him and making sure he's at his appointments and getting the right meds, that you talk to the spouses but you don't get to go out for the day and just hang out and relax."

This, however provide that time and, she said, it was just plain fun. "I'm not stopping 'til they make me," Josie said. "I want to hug the person that created this and never, ever, ever let them go! Ever!"

"Definitely a huge, huge thank you to whoever put this together for us so we had the opportunity to do this stuff," Sgt. Salzman said. "I'm one of the new guys. Two -and -a half months ago I got blown up in Iraq and lost my arm, and now I'm here in Vail tubing."

The whoops and hollers as groups came screaming down the trails were evidence of the fun the veterans and their guests were having.

"When you go skiing and snowboarding you're just kind of out there with your instructor," Marine Lance Cpl. Kade Hinkhouse said. "This is like a group thing where we can all hang out together."

Hinkhouse lost his right leg above the knee and suffered a traumatic brain injury Oct. 8, 2005, in Iraq.

After the group photo this morning, it's back to work learning to ski or snowboard before attending their farewell dinner at the Vail Firehouse.

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