The following is Part One, from a series we plan to post over the next few weeks, titled “Veterans: A Free Ranging Discourse” written by local attorney and SAV volunteer, Rich DeJean. Part Two Part Three Part Four
— Part 1 —
Take a drive along the Selway River in North-Central Idaho and chances are you will meet Jose, Jimmy, Mark or Rick. They are combat injured veterans who were deployed as Army Rangers in Afghanistan. At various times of the year, you will also meet many other combat-injured veterans in this part of Idaho. And, this part of Idaho is exactly the same part of Idaho that the Lewis & Clark Expedition traversed when they came into Idaho over Lolo Pass from Montana.
The organization to which these combat-injured veterans belong is “Send-A-Vet” Foundation (www.send-a-vet.org). This is an organization formed by and run by combat-injured veterans, including other non-veteran volunteers. Its mission statement is: “To ensure a positive respite experience for our combat-wounded veterans.” It would be difficult to imagine a better setting in which to carry out this mission statement.
These are the Americans who fight our wars. They have all fought in either Iraq or Afghanistan and they have been wounded in doing so. I have volunteered with this organization for some 3+ years and all of the veterans I have met have disabilities recognized by the VA, some being 70-80% disabled.
While I am not aware of any medical doctors being part of the organization, its members have intuitively hit upon “therapies” that provide immense satisfaction to these veterans. A large percentage, if not a great majority, of these men and women suffer from PTSD. This was the result on so many occasions of being blown up by IEDs (improvised explosive devices) or being subjected to other high velocity explosions.
It has been my experience that while these veterans are appreciative of any recognition given them for their services, they had, in large part, been deployed as part of elite fighting units and they are action-oriented persons and especially like outdoor oriented activities.
The organization Send-A-Vet, has physical facilities along the Selway River where they provide outdoor experiences together with food and lodging for these combat-injured veterans. Depending upon the proclivities of the veteran, this may manifest itself in the form of fishing, hunting, hiking or simply relaxing. While all of these veterans suffer from a disability of some sort, they are still what I might describe as “tough” individuals. Because so many of them are amputees, the organization and its volunteers, take measure to ensure that the veterans can get into this vast wilderness which remains essentially unchanged from the times of Lewis & Clark. I can personally attest that this brief interlude along and about the Selway River and the Lochsa River (two of the first of America’s Wild and Scenic rivers) has produced positive results in every veteran I have met.
(to be continued)