Wounded soldiers find a week of reprieve in Breckenridge
Ryan Summerlin March 24, 2012
BRECKENRIDGE – It’s the first time Sgt. Jeremiah Gorsuch, an explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) technician with the U.S. Army, has left the hospital since he lost his foot diffusing a bomb in Afghanistan in November.
He’s one of nine injured bomb technicians – eight military and one law enforcement – who gathered at a Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center-owned lodge in Breckenridge last week to learn to ski and snowboard, rest and recover.
The retreat was the brainchild of Colonel Leo Bradley, a task force commander who wrote home from Afghanistan to suggest doing something special for a group of injured bomb technicians.
“He (said), so am I nuts?” recalls Alexandra Petze, who helped organize the retreat. “And I (said) yes, but we have to do this or no one will do it. Because EOD is such a tight family community and we really wanted to do something for our guys.”
The retreat, which took four months to plan with support of donors, offered men who chose a career disposing of bombs a chance to tackle new challenges, such as avalanche safety and rescue techniques, snowshoeing and adaptive skiing and snowboarding.
The bombs are easier, Gorsuch said.
But the week was also about allowing the men to spend time and talk with others who have been injured in their dangerous line of work.
“Nobody really understands what we go through and what we do like another one of us,” Gorsuch said. “So to be presented with the chance to be here with a group of guys … and be able to sit down and talk with them and share our stories … it’s really therapeutic.”
In addition to trying snow sports, and attending film screenings and dinners – provided by the Breckenridge Brewery and Seven’s Restaurant – the group also met with members of the Breckenridge Ski Patrol to learn about their jobs. Military personnel make excellent ski patrol recruits when they leave the armed forces, retreat organizers said.
“Some of these guys are thinking what do they do in the future after the military and ski patrolling, the structure of it can be very similar to being in the military,” Breckenridge ski patroller Dave Leffler said. “We were just talking to these guys about, if (they’re) not going to make a full career out of the military, something along these lines might be fun for (them) to slide into.”
The retreat wrapped up Friday. Organizers are already talking about putting another gathering together next year.