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Warriors and Quiet Waters brings soldiers to the snow

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By Tyler Allen Explore Big Sky Associate Editor

BIG SKY – Derek Goodridge first fly fished in Montana four months after being injured in

Afghanistan by an Improvised Explosive Device in February 2011. The retired Marine Corp

Sergeant says he still talks weekly with his guide and photographer from the organization

Warriors and Quiet Waters, which brought Goodridge to Montana.

“It helped me get my head back on a swivel,” Goodridge, 25, said of the six-day program. “It

made me realize there are still things out there I can do with one arm.”

WQW for seven years has brought wounded soldiers to southwest Montana to experience the

therapeutic nature of fly fishing on the area’s blue ribbon rivers.

This winter, Goodridge, from Minneapolis, Minn., will join six other wounded military personnel

– both active and retired – from Feb. 10-15 for the organization’s inaugural ski and snowboard

program. Veterans of the war in Afghanistan, the participants all suffer from Post Traumatic

Stress Disorder, and all but one have traumatic brain injuries as a result of injuries sustained

from IEDs.

“We’ve been working with [these particular warriors] for over a year,” said Team Leader

Lawrence Stuemke, a WQW volunteer who designed the ski program. “The biggest issue they

have is social anxiety. It’s very common for them to isolate themselves, and being around

people is very challenging for them.”

The week spent skiing and enjoying the winter environment is intended to give the participants a

break from the rigors of recovery, Stuemke said, and perhaps augment their healing process.

After arriving Monday morning, the group will get outfitted with the necessary gear and clothing

from Chalet Sports in Bozeman, including jackets donated by The North Face. They’ll be able

to keep all the gear when the program is over – just as the participants of the summer program

keep their fishing gear.

They’ll spend their nights at Big River Lodge on the Gallatin River, beneath the towering

limestone cliffs near the mouth of Gallatin Canyon and will take lessons at Big Sky Resort

Tuesday morning and then freeski that afternoon, Thursday and Friday.

The warriors will take a snowcoach into Yellowstone National Park on Wednesday with

Yellowstone Alpen Guides, visit the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone,

and finish the day with a sleigh-ride dinner hosted by Cache Creek Outfitters in Gallatin Canyon.

Bozeman native Marine Corp. Col. Eric Hastings, an air support pilot in the Vietnam war, started

WQW in 2007, “To provide traumatically injured U.S. servicemen and women from Iraq and

Afghanistan with a high quality restorative program, utilizing the therapeutic experience of fly

fishing on Montana waters,” according to the organization’s website.

WQW will partner with Eagle Mount Bozeman, which has been working with military personnel

through its EMBLEM (Eagle Mount Bozeman Lasting Experiences for Military) program since

summer 2011, and has assisted adaptive skiers at Big Sky Resort for the last 10 years. This is

the first time the two have collaborated.

“Many of our servicemen and women have come home with PTSD and/or traumatic brain

injuries, which present different considerations which you have to account for,” said Chad

Biggerstaff, Eagle Mount’s Big Sky Program Director. Biggerstaff has learned about some of

these different challenges through his work with the EMBLEM program.

“Hyper vigilance is an issue many veterans deal with, so you have to be aware of the situations

you are putting them into, and always make sure they have an out.” 

Big Sky Resort has a history of accommodating retired and active military personnel, and hosts

Military Appreciation Weekends every year in which it offers free skiing and/or lodging specials

for active military members and discounts for their families.

“These men and women are putting their lives on the line,” said Big Sky Resort Public Relations

Manager Sheila Chapman. “Our resort wants to give back to show appreciation for what they do

for our country.”

The resort is hosting WQW for the week and Chapman noted the resort offers active and

retired military personnel the early rate on its Sky Card throughout the season.

Big Sky Resort will provide the group sack lunches, as well as a quiet “warrior room” in the

mountain village, where the participants will be able to hang out, get dressed, and have snacks

and hot drinks, Stuemke said.

“I’m definitely looking forward to it,” Goodridge told EBS from Minneapolis on Feb. 3. “My bags

are already packed.”

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