BIG SKY- From July 17 to 23, the Big Sky and Bozeman communities will be hosting Iraq and Afghanistan veterans visiting from around the country who have physical and invisible wounds.
Approximately 55 warriors and their caregivers will travel to the area and participate in an event organized by Operation Never Forgotten called the SAS (Sports, Afield and Stream) Project. The goal is to help the warriors discover new skills, mentorship, passions and hope through outdoor sports, hunting, fishing and wilderness adventures.
ONF is encouraging the public to welcome the veterans at the airport on the afternoon and evening of the 17, or at the Gallatin County Fair Rodeo on July 21.
The group is also inviting the public to join warrior guests for entertainment at Big Sky Resort on Friday, July 20. Comedian and former Marine, Mark Sweeney, will emcee the evening, and musicians Lucas Hoge, Adele Morgan and Devorah will perform.
ONF held its first SAS event at Big Sky Resort in winter of 2011. Excited to offer summer activities for the veterans, ONF president Linda Kelly listed off some of what’s planned:
“A double leg amputee will be riding horses after just getting his prosthetics, a warrior recovering from severe burns will be rafting, a blind veteran will be rock climbing, serious PTSD veterans will be packing into the backcountry of Yellowstone with llamas, traumatic brain injured veterans will be fly fishing on floats down the Yellowstone and on Hebgen Lake,” Kelly said.
The nonprofit, non-partisan 100 percent volunteer group works to connect civilians and the military through national awareness campaigns and support for deployed troops, wounded warriors, fallen heroes and military families. ONF also supports Gold Star Families by creating personalized outdoor digital billboards posted in their hometowns.
Injured veterans speak out to support peers
The public is invited to join warrior guests at Big Sky Resort’s Missouri Ballroom on July 20, starting at 5:30 p.m. Veterans will speak on the following topics, and there will also be live music, dinner and a celebrity signature auction.
“Uncovering the Tragic Reality of PTSD”
David Philipps is the author of Lethal Warriors, a must read according to Tom Brokaw. Drawing on harrowing prison, family and police interviews, Philipps takes readers into the action overseas, and also portrays the heartbreaking drama unfolding at home, where soldiers are at a loss to readjust as they fail to reintegrate back into society because of PTSD.
“Family Strength… More Power than a Bomb”
SFC Mike Mills, along with his wife Suki, describe his horrific journey from the IED explosion followed by countless surgeries, to the secondary PTSD with their family. Mills will explain how he has turned his battlefield at home into a mission to help other injured Veterans and their families adjust and heal.
CPT (ret) Jesse Sellars commanded soldiers that received 97 individual awards for heroism, valor and gallantry on the battlefield, two of which were awarded to himself. After successful treatment with PTSD, Sellars speaks around the country and has been highlighted on 60 Minutes, The Discovery Channel, PBS, The History Channel, FOX News, CNN, CBS, The Military Channel, The New Yorker, The New York Times and Time.