Summit County local uses mountain therapy to help injured vets
summit daily news
Few people know the real cost of war better than Tom Torres.
The now-retired Army veteran was injured during his years of service, and now dedicates his time to helping to improve the lives of other injured vets.
“There’s another mission that I’ve got to do,” he says. “And that’s to help out as many soldiers as I can.”
On Saturday, Torres, along with a few colleagues and fellow veterans, spent the entire day outside in heavy rain and snow selling hot dogs and collecting donations in front of the Walmart in Frisco to raise money and awareness for FOB Summit County, Co., Torres’ non profit organization that brings hundreds of veterans up to the mountains for recreational therapy.
FOB, standing for forward operating base, Summit County works with the Warrior Transition Unit at Ft. Carson, where injured vets may spend up to two years recovering, to offer the soldiers opportunities to spend a few days doing something fun in the mountains.
Torres and his soldiers spend a few days white water rafting, fishing, snowmobiling or snowboarding, and while relaxing against the scenic backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, the soldiers tend to open up about their experiences.
“Most of the men and women we bring up … the last thing they remember before the explosion is being on the battlefield,” Torres said. “So if we can get them up here, it triggers something inside them that is a good memory and they’re more apt to open up about the explosion or the loss of a friend. They’re more apt to talk about that, which is part of the healing process.”
It seems to work. Torres said the soldiers who have participated in his program are less likely to commit suicide or abuse alcohol and are more likely to be productive and volunteer their time.
FOB Summit County, fills a need that has been largely ignored in the past. Dozens of soldiers at Ft. Carson alone commit suicide every month.
Torres understands why. He tears up remembering the 173 friends and comrades he lost on the battlefield.
Through the FOB he generally orchestrates two trips a month, each one bringing as many as 30 soldiers from Ft. Carson up to Summit County. Many of his veterans have suffered brain injuries, limb amputations and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. All of them have done at least four tours overseas.
The organization also hosts trips for the kids and spouses of injured veterans as well as the surviving family members of fallen soldiers.
Out of his own pocket, or through grants and in-kind and cash donations, he offers them an all expenses-paid escape to the mountains.
He said he has received overwhelming support from the community in his work over the last four years.
Saturday’s fundraiser, for example, was a success, despite the wet weather. Torres estimated the group raised over $1,000 and signed up several new volunteers.
Donations from the community and the support of volunteers are crucial, he said. Many local businesses donate food, lodging and rental gear for the veterans while they’re in town, helping to offset some of FOB’s overhead costs.
But the organization is also in desperate need of skilled volunteers, such as clinicians, yoga and Pilates instructors and massage therapists, whose work is also incorporated into the trips organized for veterans.
For more information about FOB Summit County and to get involved go to http://www.fobsummitcountyco.org.
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