By Emily Stifler Explorebigsky.com Managing Editor
BIG SKY – An event that supports wounded veterans by bringing them to Montana for outdoor recreation and adventure is returning to Big Sky for a second straight year.
The Sports, Afield and Stream project (SAS) this year will be in the summer. So instead of skiing, ice climbing and dog sledding, which the warrior guests took part in last winter, they will take on summer activities.
The weeklong lineup includes rock climbing, horseback riding, rafting, fly fishing, zip lining, archery, mountain biking, golfing, a rodeo, time at the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center and a hiking trip in Yellowstone National Park with a pack string of llamas. Veterans will also win trips for hunting, fishing, backcountry horse packing, a cattle ranch vacation and a hot air balloon flight.
Several wounded warrior guests will return from the previous year, this time as volunteers and mentors.
One of the six evenings, on July 20, will be open to the public. Speakers will include comedian Mark Sweeney, David Philipps (author of Lethal Warriors), and Staff Sergeant Mike Mills, a veteran who suffered near fatal burns from an explosion.
The SAS Project is supported by Operation Never Forgotten, a nonprofit, which works to create awareness for wounded warriors, deployed troops, fallen heroes and military families on a national level. ONF is an all-volunteer organization.
“We saw what a great impact our first SAS event made for wounded warriors that we had to keep bringing well- deserved veterans back to Big Sky,” said vice president of ONF and veteran, John Kinzinger.
SAS also teaches the veterans about wildlife, hunting, fishing and wilderness, something ONF President Linda Kelly says is important.
“Too many of our combat veterans are struggling with invisible wounds or stress injury and are falling into high rates of crime, broken marriages, substance abuse and even suicide,” Kelly said.
“We introduce new hope and passion in life through new adaptive skills,” Kelly said.
Without having a friend or family member in the military, it’s hard to comprehend the importance of supporting veterans and their caregivers, said Kelly, whose son and husband served in Iraq simultaneously.
To donate or get involved, visit sasproject.org.