On the evening of the last river camp I ask the Warriors if they would like to write down their thoughts. Below are a few of the comments and some text from emails.
Some of the 2017 comments
May 12 launch – 2/7 Marines, Air Force Pararescue, Royal British Commandos
-Fred, I want to thank you for putting this together. This trip has done so much for me, just being together with my fellow Marines is very therapeutic. There is so much that my wife and family don’t understand and being back together with some of the guys from my own unit brings back joy into my life, and to be together in such a beautiful place makes it so much better. Being here really is the happiest time I have had for so long. It makes me look forward to life. Thank you.
-Thank you for giving me this amazing opportunity to reunite with my brothers and reconnect with who I am. With the paced of today’s world, it has become easy to forget where I came from and who I am. This trip has allowed me to reconnect with my Brothers, who have shared their stories and showed me I am not alone. Thank You. J. R.
May 19 2017 launch – Phoenix VA and others
-As a Vietnam Female Veteran I jumped a the chance to go on this trip. I was the oldest veteran. I was treated royally by both staff and fellow rafters because I needed quite a bit of help Our very diverse group as far as age, background, personalities all blended into a fabulous group, supporting each other in so many ways. We bonded and all had a wonderful time. The closeness was so overwhelming! I don’t think I have ever felt so much warmth and LOVE. I am so happy I came and will come again if invited the BIG waves were GREAT. And I want to adopt the youngest male guide.
-Fred, Amazing, amazing, amazing. You presented to me an amazing opportunity to make friendships, to experience the beauty of this country, and to challenge myself under intense conditions I love what you are doing for the people who have served our country, Thank you. Tommy.
-Fred, Thanks for your hospitality and vision to bring “Warriors on Cataract” to life. I work full time at VA caring for seriously ill and injured veterans and know that there is much more to healing vets than what the VA can provide. Thank God for organizations like Warriors on Cataract!
21 May launch
-Human beings are often not aware how strong they are until their strengths are tested. Healing is an ongoing process and being on the River and amongst others with similar experiences is helpful. Fred, I hope you know what you are doing is pretty amazing. Best of Luck, God bless. Aida, Bosnian refugee.
-Vietnam vet: I don’t have enough words to describe what this trip meant to me. I have never spent any time with other vets since I left the Army. This trip has taken me to a place I never thought I would ever be. At Peace. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Keith Petersen
-I really needed this trip pretty bad. It was only a few weeks ago that I was suffering from severe pain, nightmares, and uncontrollable suicidal thoughts. I can say, since day one of this trip, my pain has decreased, my nightmares have stopped and have no thoughts of suicide. There’s nothing like the power of natural healing out in God’s world. I wish more people would take advantage of things like this, and get away from unnecessary medication. Mark Mathiot
-Fred, The Rapids change everything. Once in wash, all troubles, pain, and ill feelings vanish. Riding the waves is all there is. There just isn’t enough Rapids. Looking for the endless River of Rapids. Appreciate the relief, Brother. Hooyah!! Chipper Williams
-Fred, Your efforts on behalf of vets is a good thing to be a part of. Watching and hearing the laughter, screams on the water, stories around the fire; watching you quietly observe it all. This is healing, grounding and living at high levels! Grip
-River guide on 5-29, 5-22 5-15 trips. After guiding these trips since some of your earlier trips it is nice to see how time helps heal the wounds. On my first trip we had to be so careful about loud noises, closing cans and lids. Now we can crash our way through the canyon and the noises don’t faze anyone. These trips are my favorite to run. Veterans are so helpful and like to get things done. It is hard for us guides to keep up.
May 6 2016 2/7 Marines and Air Force Para Rescue Launch
-Thank you for contacting the Royal British Legion and making this experience possible. The trip has far exceeded all of my expectations. Royal British Commando
-It was a healing experience for us civilians as well.
-I realize that I must stay strong like the canyon and not fear the future and I must every keep moving forward like the river and follow my dreams and make them a reality. Thank you for a life changing trip.
-I would like to thank you for giving me the opportunity to bring my Marines together. 2/7 Corpsman
-This will forever stay in my heart.
-Thank you so much for the Epic Adventure with my son. I will cherish it for the rest of my life. Next year!! HooYah!!
-Thank you Fred for giving me one of the best adventures of my life. I was asked to “leave something” here in the river, and after carrying around dark memories form the past, I can honestly say it’s not going home with me. This trip has a healing power of its own. Royal Marine Commando
-Great time! I had a tough time after my injury, dealt with a lot of stress. This trip brought me complete and total relaxation. Something I have not had in 11 years. (Air Force Pararescue, 7 pounds of titanium, 17 bolts, 2 rods, staples holding his bones together)
-Where do I even begin? This trip has been inspirational and eye-opening more than I could ever put into words, but I’ll try. You and many of the other of these great men have taught me more than I expected to gain on this trip, and instilled great values. I appreciate all the sacrifices these men have made.
May 14 2016 All Female Launch
-I really did have such a wonderful, and life-changing, attitude-shifting time! I feel so much more empowered, and more at peace with who I am and my value to the world. Thank you so much for the opportunity and the experience. I am eternally grateful. Alia Eisele
–My trip down Cataract Canyon as a survivor of Military Sexual Trauma brought me through calm waters of friendship, through rapids of emotions, and into an opening of Pandora’s Box. Way too much to go through alone in this world and left on the sands of Moab.
-This trip helped me to continue on the path of healing my soul.
-I wanted to go whitewater rafting for a long time and I was fortunate enough to be on the women’s trip, We came from different backgrounds and different levels of trauma, and we came together as one. We laughed, we cried, we healed, and we empowered each other.
-On the flat water after the rapids we did more reflection on what we were leaving behind in the river and canyon.
-I let go of self doubt.
-To all my sister veterans and the counselors and guides – Thank You for the experience of a lifetime. I was able to break down walls and misconceptions that I had put up over the last 45 years.
-On the trip I found another deeper level of healing for my multiple traumas. Even though I had worked on these wounds for years, there was another block that I didn’t know existed.
-This journey was one of the most incredible healing experiences I ever had. To watch others begin with a black cloud hanging over their heads, and finish the trip glowing with light and freedom is beyond description and so joyful.
-To experience the awe of nature and be humbled by its power and beauty. Thank you for involving compassionate people in the process of healing and surrounding our limited time with laughter and love. It means so much more than words can express I will bring love, friendship, and humility with me on my continued journey and never forget what has been gained. With eternal gratitude….
-I thank God for all the help, friendship and support that came flowing from the whole group of rafters on this Glorious Trip of a Lifetime.
May 21 Salt Lake VA Launch
-After a few days on the water with Warriors on Cataract, I feel transformed and incredibly grateful. Moab and the Colorado River have been an incredibly healing setting – the land seems to have a pulse and breath of life around it. Through the power of the river, the beauty of the desert, and the majesty of it all, I felt peace and happiness.
-The Cataract trip was life-changing, and I can’t thank you enough or adequately! If you need a volunteer to help out next year, please let me know. I appreciate everything that you’ve done, Fred, as does everyone else that I know that went on the trip.
-As a young adult, I spent many seasons working as a commercial river guide all over the country. Water has often been a place of healing and renewal in my life, which is one of the reasons I enlisted in the US Coast Guard. However, due to severe emotional and physical pain, I gave up boating years ago. When I became disabled, I thought that I would never be capable of running rivers again. Now, I am inspired and wonder what I can accomplish when I dare to dream. Warriors on Cataract is good medicine for the soul, a fantastic journey of self-discovery, and an experience I will never forget!
May 28 Cheyenne Launch
-When I became disabled, I thought that I would never be capable of running rivers again. Now, I am inspired and wonder what I can accomplish when I dare to dream. Warriors on Cataract is good medicine for the soul, a fantastic journey of self-discovery, and an experience I will never forget!
-Thank you for changing my life.
-I can’t tell you or thank you enough for the honor of joining everyone in the rafting trip down the Colorado River. I will have good memories the rest of my life.
-What can I say… it was a truly fantastic trip, I genuinely haven’t stopped talking about it! All the guys were so cool and welcoming, I’m absolutely honored we had the chance to go on it! 5***** fun!!! Ben (Allah Akbar) Royal British Commando
-Gunner – You ROCK. You brought us through safely and made what could have been a scary and dangerous moment a memorable exciting and awesome time instead.
-I’m sure we will stay in touch long after this event.
-Today is the last day of a breathtaking journey. I cannot say enough about the staff.
-River was great! It made my whole year, was feeling down, now I feel hope. thanks Fred
From one of the Trip Leaders/Guides who is changing river outfitters
One of the hardest parts of my decision to change companies was that fact that I would be giving up the Warriors trips which have by far been the greatest trips I have ever gotten to partake in. They have been inspiring and fulfilling beyond belief and I will miss continuing the relationships that I have built over the years.
May 5 2015 Special Operations Troops launch
-A note from Nathan Wright from the UK: I was asked if i would represent the Royal British legion and the Battle Back program by going to America on a Wounded warrior trip to white water raft down the Colorado river with one other British veteran and a bunch of American veterans. I will always remember the feeling of honor and pride when i got asked. This was the pinnacle of my recovery and the conformation i needed that i was ready. And that trip to date has been and will be the best time of my life for a very long time. from sharing stories, learning about one another and how everyone was dealing with the problems they had and being in one of most beautiful places i have ever been, around a camp fire, i realized how lucky i was to be where i was. I made friends and since that trip i have been back to the states a few times and visited and stayed with people i met on that trip. If it wasn’t for the team at Battle Back i wouldn’t have been able to do all these amazing things and meet all these amazing people. . like i said earlier the bottom line is i wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for team and support i have been given by Battle Back, and the team at lilleshall.
-The most amazing aspect of the Warriors on Cataract trips is watching the veterans both young and old bonding over shared experiences and wounds, all the while absorbing the awe of the river. The healing process during this trip is absolutely amazing. They build new friendships and work through personal demons without modern medicine or therapists. Nature, the river, is the healer.
-Hello, Warriors on Cataract: These services save lives! We need to keep stuff like this open and available to all veterans. I have made contacts during this trip that provided me ultimate benefits and rewards just from talking to vets. I was able to help support vets during this trip and give myself a sense of worth.
May 18 Cheyenne VA Launch
-This is one of the most awesome programs I have encountered. I am so privileged to be here. I used to avoid veterans. This has been a great experience for me to feel confident around those that served and experienced similar things that I have. This trip has helped me to see I am not so different and I am not alone.
-Keep Fred alive – Kristi Ruben
-I can’t begin to tell you how much these trips have changed my life, that I can credit the Cataract Canyon for a lot of my recovery from the dark place I have been since my deployments while serving in the United States Army. The friends I have made have been lifelong the new great memories have helped drown and muffle many old bad ones.
-It’s always a great time when you can reconnect with the guys. For those who don’t know there is no explaining. For those who know there is no explanation needed. You don’t have that without being on a trip like this. I treasure these times when you can get away from life and be with guys in this great land with these great people. This trip has helped put those thoughts to rest that return from time to time. This trip brings back those great memories of camaraderie and brotherhood you only have in those moments of stress found in the rapids.
May 28 Salt Lake City VA Launch
-From the Operations Manager of the Royal British Legion: I met up with Danny O’Sullivan yesterday who spent some time extolling the virtue and benefit of his trip with you. The benefit he got from his time on the trip was immense.
-This group of vets, staff, and the love exhibited unconditionally has overwhelmed me! I really needed this trip. Spiritually, emotionally, physically, this has opened up my heart. I want to give back and have become closer to this source that binds all of us. Thanks so much for this opportunity to have experienced this wonderful awakening between each one of you! All my love, Jules Johnson.
-This trip was the fulfillment of a life long dream and doing it with other veterans made it very gratifying to the extreme! I can’t say thank you enough and I hope to stay in touch and do more for you so you can help the vets who really need this! I will thank God every day for you and pray he will “Keep Fred Alive” because the need is to great and there are so few “Freds.” God Bless you, your volunteers, and TagaLong. Hugs and Semper Fi. Paula.
-Thanks for making a blind guy enjoy such a great week. The staff took extremely good care of us. Each in their own way. It has been a trip I will always remember and cherish. Ed Riding.
-From a Royal British Marine – Just to say a massive thank you to Fred and all the team for the opportunity to come over from the UK and meet all the vets and being able to go on a river for a once in the lifetime opportunity.
-Thanks for making life worth living.
-I just lost my step Dad last week but every time I get down I think of the Cataract Canyon trip.
-This trip put a smile back on my face.
-The May of the 30th in the year of 2015 – British Style… Trips like this could have prevented 22 deaths a day with unlimited funding. Chris Kyle might be alive, suicides would slow to a trickle. Vets would stop resorting to drugs and divorces would stop being so common. This deserves funding more than 85% of the programs out there.
-Thank you all so much. I hope I can spread this amazing therapy to other vets and see the healing among my friends.. Dick and Lisa.
-I’ve had a hard time talking with the doctors at my VA ‘cause I just can’t connect with them and won’t open up. On this trip I felt comfortable to open up. The river is very healing in so many ways. I have been going through a very tough struggle recently and recently had some very traumatic memories. Finding out I was going on this trip gave me light in the tunnel – something to look forward to and retract my dark thoughts to a happy place.
-From the bottom of my heart, thank you. Derek Morgan.
June 4 2105 All Female whitewater trip comments
-I can’t thank you all enough for the opportunity to complete a lifelong dream. Being with other vets and seeing that we’re all suffering and that others understand was very healing to me. The getaway was much needed and though it was difficult, it was marvelous! You’re doing a great thing! Paula
-Thanks for the fantastic time on the trip, it was truly amazing, probably one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. Can you pass on my thanks to everyone who helped make it such a great time, Sam, Karen Corey, Trina, Buzz and Tommy. What an amazing experience. Royal British Marine Joyce
-There were so many dynamics presented, but it was plain to see that the outdoors, camaraderie, laughter, and time away from the everyday definitely have healing power for all! Julia
May 6, 2014 — Special Operations Forces
-This trip was one of the best adventures I have been on since the military. It was nice to get out and feel free for a while. I can not thank you enough for this trip. This adventure has helped me in ways no modern day medicine can. I feel fresh and ready. This was amazing. Thank you again.
-This trip was a blessing. I have been stuck in the house for the past year or so dealing with depression. Being on the river allowed for much needed decompression. Thank you for the opportunity to see some amazing scenery and connect with the other veterans. It is great to know I am not alone.
-The river and canyon are always healing influences, but the most refreshing part of the trip was the sound of laughter from the warriors. The laughter started early every day and lasted long after I turned in each night. I hope the healing I observed carries forward for all the wonderful men and women I have met on these trips. They deserve it.
As I made a phone call a couple weeks ago and spoke to Fred I realized a possible Cataract Canyon trip with individuals from our U.S. Services and an organization that hosts, funds and shares an amazing experience. Once interviewed and called back with a “yes,” I was ecstatic.
On Cinco de Mayo 2014, I met these men involved with Warriors on Cataract for our briefing, set up in a motel, and felt welcome in a place where I knew nobody. Next morning… load up gear, people and hit the road to the river.
The River, a place with constant flow of swift water, canyons with the most radiant colors and what the Warriors on Cataract program has brought with OARS river company.
This stretch of river was my third time, first on a J-rig. Super fun, especially when I held on backwards and a wave curled over and on me.
This trip already included a bumpy float and beautiful scenic area. The unity of these individuals from Special Operations, Marines (like my father), Air Force, Army Rangers, forced to retire or work in something undesirable, hearing about their stories relating to the great, good, bad, and miserable.
These men and a wife of a warrior have really motivated me to further my goals to be involved with helping our veterans. It was so humbling to hear about the lack of support from the people/systems in the military and the inconsistent or non-available insurances these individual who have been medically discharged have gone through. Humble because of the support from their friends, previous leaders, wives and family including animals. That lack of support for these respectable men have given me courage to pursue my dream, and most definitely include a greater respect for men in service.
As I don’t know if I ever met my father (prior to his marine duties in Vietnam), this changed man who raised a family, I would love for him to meet any of these individuals for many reasons.
So cheers to Fred, who put this together, the volunteers who, as I, got the opportunity to join such an experience, and these men that are: Spectacular, Hilarious, Emotional (even though its hard to admit!), Strong, Heroic, Inspiring…justified as amazing in my book.
May 12, 2014 — All-Women Wounded Warriors
-I want to convey my deepest gratitude for this experience. I also wish I could use words that convey the magnitude of my feeling.
-Also, what will endure for me is the intimate sharing I experienced. I have felt love and deep gratitude from the selfless spirit.
-All I can say is Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!
-This is/was the most eventful, wonderful, challenging adventure in my life! Speaking for all of the women who have no voices, this trip was a long time coming. Our voices are always muffled amongst the male veteran’s program and we get left behind. Thank you Fred for thinking of us! There was so much camaraderie and teamwork during this trip. Absolutely no one was left behind; we all had the wonderful opportunity to experience something new and with other sisters! This can be marked off of my bucket list! Please, please, pour in more support for women veterans, we do not want to get left behind — just think…riding on Category 5 rapids at the age of 52!!! Yea!!
-Not all wounds are visible! (Military Sexual Trauma Sufferer)
-Fred had done an incredible thing here, ensuring that we, as women, get a chance to experience something that can’t necessarily be done the normal way, because of the types of disabilities we have, physical, emotional, intellectual. His creation of this trip and carefully orchestrated adventure has been amazing in the way it’s allowed me to expand what I think I can do, what I want to do, how I see others.
-This was a great experience.
-Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
-Dear generous, kind, giving Americans, I have been so blessed by your kind donation to Warriors on Cataract. I can never begin to properly portray the change in my stress level and inner peace I have experienced out here. I haven’t had a lot of strong female friendships since leaving the military. We all reconnected so easily that it was easy to be reminded that a lot of good came from some bad
-This rafting trip has been amazing. Before I came I was excited and scared. I can’t express enough my gratitude for this opportunity. This has been a once in a lifetime trip. The people I met were great. Being around others is like no other. No one seems to understand better than those who have been where you’ve been. Fred and his crew were amazing. Also, I am so grateful for this experience and the people that will now be forever in my heart.
-Thank you so much for “everything.” It was an amazing trip of nature, camaraderie, cooperation, laughter, fires, song, rafting and lots of water.
-We got to bond and talk our stories of military and home life. The rafting guides were fun, happy and a pleasure to be around. The full moon was bright and the stars were many.
-The female bonding was great. It’s always hard to get to this level of empathy and to share our stories with our fellow military members.
-Thanks to Fred who puts it all together with healing in mind. A great time was had my most and it pushed others beyond their comfort zone which is needed for true healing. Thanks again for all that you do.
-I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to be a part of the women veterans’ river rafting trip. I never would have been able to financially experience this. I’m grateful to the donors, the Western River Outfitters, my recreational therapist, Fred and everyone else who put a lot of time, money and hard work to make this happen. A lot of us who have PTSD disconnect from society and this helps to bring us back together with other people who can relate to us and feel connected again. To feel alive again. Being in nature and getting away from the worries of the world helps me to know I can go back and tackle the issues of life.
-What a wonderful, helpful, healing, and enlightening week. The work Fred is doing to bring together men and women with common experiences is genius! When you connect with someone else who shares these common experiences, the good, the bad, and the ugly, something magical happens.
-The conversations I have had and witnessed this week have been amazing. I hear so many women planning for future meet-ups (and have made plans myself).
May 30, 2014 — Cheyenne VA Hospital and 3 Royal British Marines
-I loved every moment on our trip, from when we met at the airport to when we left your house. The people I’ve met on the trip (incl your good self) have changed my life completely, it was only at christmas that i tried to commit suicide because my ptsd was so bad that i couldn’t take any more, i felt extremely down & depressed pretty much everyday until i came on the trip. The day we had in boulder at the festival was excellent; your hospitality was second to none.
-I just want to thank you again for a fantastic life changing experience & i wish i could do it again someday Karl (Royal British Marine)
-Fred and Co. Thank you very much for all you do. I had a great time. Best trip of my life. Hope to do this again next year.
-The trip is inspirational and has shown the true beauty of America. It has also created life long friendships.
-There was nothing more amazing than spending time with wonderful people on a great river. The experience and friendship I have made on this trip will last a lifetime in my memories and stories. Thanks for having me along on this great adventure.
-What a blessing trips like this are for so many veterans. It is a great experience — to see veterans from different places come together and share their experiences — their lives. To do this in such a grand outdoor setting makes it even better — helps more than all the meetings, counseling and prescription drugs!
-I’m very thankful for people like Fred, who tirelessly work on projects like this for wounded warriors. What an exceptional staff that takes care of us on the river. Thank you Tag A Long outfitters. They accommodate our disabilities with a smile and an encouraging word. Thank you Samantha, Russ, Ian and Joe.
-For my son to be able to join the trip this year gives it an even more special meaning to me. Memories for a lifetime!
-My son Ryan won’t stop talking about the river trip….!
June 6, 2014 — Salt Lake City VA Hospital
-It has been a privilege and an honor to be a part of this Colorado River trip. I will remember it for the rest of my life. Words cannot describe the beauty of the rock formations, and the marvels of nature found there. The day hikes revealed spectacular scenery that see. All of these things pale in comparison to the folks I met, and friendships I have made. Few have experienced the challenges and difficulties life has thrown at these fine folks, any yet they carry on in with such positive attitudes and agreeable dispositions. This is the part of this trip that means the most to me, and will provide the greatest memory for me going forward. Our wounded combat veterans cannot be overlooked as they represent the best that our society has to offer. We must do more.
-I want to thank you so much for inviting me on this trip. This adventure has taken me out of the world of PTSD, out of my nightmares and day-mares. The beauty of Mother Nature is so awesome that it makes me want to stay. The crew has bent way over backwards to make the most enjoyable trip. Their professionalism is most outstanding. IAgain, thank you for taking me out of my world of hell and into the world of beauty. I wish this could last forever. You are totally awesome!!!
-Thank you very much for providing me with this opportunity of having a life changing and overwhelmingly fun experience. I have realized on this trip that life can be simple and fun at the same time. I have met some amazing new friends and connections on this trip and will be staying in contact with them. It’s interesting how a couple days can not only change the rest of your life, but better it. Thank you!
-Thanks again for making this trip possible. It means so much to me and all of us the support and the good people behind it. It was great!
-Fast forward to June 6, 2014. I had my last surgery in October and you and I had talked about organizing another trip with more of the Joes from my company. I was able to bring 5 new wounded warriors, and of course Greg Orton. I got to push my old soldiers to better themselves in a new and highly supportive environment. To see the faces of my guys light up was enough for me. Just seeing some of us together in such a positive environment was truly heart warming. A couple of the guys I hadn’t seen since we were hurt, so this was my first time seeing them and giving me a new memory to envision: Giant grins throwing out high fives after big rapids.
-This trip could not have come at a better time for me. I have not seen my brothers in arms in about two years and that has been really hard, and to meet up and see the brothers I love, and work as a team again was truly a blessing. This trip was amazing and needed in the worst way. Thank you.
-The 4-day, 3-night white water rafting trip was simply phenomenal! I made new friends who are very special. The 3rd day was just incredible white water. It exceeded all my expectations. Wow! The meals together, the camaraderie was very special. There were challenges that required stamina and sometimes encouragement to make it — the Doll House, the loop climb. My only regret is the journey is coming to an end. I am a Vietnam vet who nobody cared about when we came home. This trip means everything to me. I suffer from delayed onset PTSD.
-This trip for me was a Blast. Since my injuries I haven’t been able to hike and this was my first experience with the river. Wow, it was awesome. It has helped me forget about all the stuff that’s going on in my personal life and just sit back and enjoy. You have no idea how much I needed this and how great it was. Thanks for all the support and the opportunity to experience this. You’ve got an amazing thing here. Thanks again.
Comments received in emails after the trips were over:
-Hey Fred, I’m bummed that I’m here at work, instead of still out On the River! The trip truly was amazing and changed both Jenn and me Forever! We are so thankful that we got to experience this. I hope to get some pictures out to you as soon as we get them developed! I really hope somebody caught us flipping in Big drop 2 or Imperial! I definitely regret not going on the J-RIGs for at least a few of the Rapids, but they needed 6 of us to keep going! Rando will never let me live that one down! If you need my help on any other excursions or events please let me know. V/R,
-Fred thank you so much for the experience with the Warrior on Cataract. It truly changed my life and I seen so many others on our trip have their lives changed by the new family that they gained and the experience they had on the river. I cannot tell you how amazingly blessed we all feel that you have this trip and organization for our veterans and volunteers. I will never forget the trip or my amazing new family and relationships that we all created and obstacles we got through and knowing how strong we are to change the things that we needed help with and that there are people who love and care about us all. I am so glad that there are wonderful people like you in this world that give so much. Thank you again and God Bless you and Buzz!!
-Fred the trip was an amazing trip. Had a great time meeting new people from different places and making new friends. The trip really helped me and it is something I will cherish for the rest of my life. Hope to cross paths in the near future. Thank you again for everything. The volunteers, staff, food, sights were amazing.
-Viet Nam Sky Crane pilot that was shot down: I will never forget the experience. It was something very special.
-Words cannot express how I feel. I am so very sad to go. I have learned a lot about myself & have grown so much.
-This has been an absolute blessing in my life. And it gave me a chance to let my mind stand still and not worry about anything. Time stood still here. I will always cherish this experience. It is forever imprinted in my heard.
-This week has been amazing! From the moment we arrived, met the staff and volunteers. The llamas were funny with the way they moaned as they were being loaded as if to be saying “Oh my…what’s up w/ all these females?” “Should we be scared?” I enjoyed working with Macoma. “Mr. Alpha” male tried to boss me a couple times, but quickly understood who the “Alpha female” was. We both enjoyed the time with each other.
-This four days gave me a new sense of hope for myself. That I can continue to grow, forgive, and move on in a positive light. Instead of wandering, scared, alone, in the dark.
-Thank you Cheri, Fred, and Ron for showing me there is kindness in people who want to help us heal. Ya’ll are blessed people w/ wonderful giving hearts!
-I’m returning home w/ so much more hope and determination that my future will be brighter and happier. I’m taking a part of your universe home w/ me. — Kelly M. Holmes
-The compassion, energy and friendship that were shown to me by every one of the staff and volunteers of STARS were incredible and will never be forgotten. I am so grateful for the opportunity that was given me to come on this camping trip and the memories of all the events will last a lifetime. – Ester Martinez
-I am grateful for what I learned from Emily: The Million $ Game, 16 I Am Affirmations, and the Closing Circle. I am also greatly inspired the the STARS staff, who catered to our every need! Thank you very much for an awesome experience!! — Love, Helen
-This trip has been truly amazing! Each planned activity has been very therapeutic.
-I want to thank Cheri Trousil at Humble Ranch, Fred Solheim, all the staff and volunteers from the STARS Program, and Emily Potter, my Rec Therapist from the Salt Lake VA, for making this possible for the women veterans. I have learned SO much this week about the other women and what they have been through and ways to help us overcome and take back our lives. The activities were so fun! The llamas were so cool! I’ve never worked with or touched a llama before. I got to lead Moses up the mountain to Camp Naname. We were both huffing and puffing! Thank you so much for allowing me to relax and just have a good time. …Sincerely, Debbie Montague Manchado
Comments from the 2013 whitewater trips
-A Father-Son team: It is difficult to put into words how grateful we are for the amazing experience we had during this trip. Being able to be away from all the stressors and triggers of the world and spend time with fellow Warriors was an incredible experience for us. This time on the river was more than we could have ever hoped for. We feel truly blessed to have this opportunity! Thank you for providing such a wonderful experience.
-Truly the greatest experience of my life!!
-6 gunshot wounds, 27 surgeries, Eagle Scout at 14: Dear Tag-a-Long, On behalf of my Platoon D 3rd Ranger Battalion, I thank you for this unimaginable experience. All of you have helped us in ways I can’t explain. From tracking down lost baggage, to cooking to some of your dietary needs. I personally will never forget this trip, nor my fellow Rangers. This is Paradise outdoors. I hope only the best for all of you. Thank you again. Rangers lead the way!! PS Sorry my handwriting sucks, I’m doing this on the boat while driving…
-A comment from a Ranger 2 months later: “My guys talk about the river trip every day…”
-I would run out of ink before I finished giving praise to Tag-a-Long and this Warriors rafting trip. The crew @ Tag-a-long is genuine and professional. Thanks for getting us down the river safely and happily.
-This has been the BEST trip. I am a caregiver for Chris and I have never seen something so impactful on an individual! This is (an) amazing & wonderful program that hopefully we can join for years into the future. We both have made close friends that we plan to visit & remain in contact with. Chris has been amazing in this trip & socially alert. It’s like an eye opener for Chris & having a new hobby & learning and building confidence. I think this has been the best therapy for Chris & me. Thank you for this great experience – we will remember this FOREVER!
-It is nice to know that even after over 10 years of war, folks back home still care & support the troops. It is a far difference from the welcome my father received when returning from Viet Nam. It has been a great trip and I especially enjoyed being with the boys again. Unless you’ve been there, it is hard to relate to experiences of combat. The talks around the campfire have been awesome.
Comments from the July 2012 whitewater trip
-I do not have the words to describe my gratitude . .surely an amazing adventure. All of the anxiety and stress from work and home diminished.
-I didn’t know people cared.
-Getting to know everyone & watching individuals come out of their shells as the week progressed was truly amazing. The Tag-A-Long crew were awesome, skillful, & knowledgeable, and made this trip a memorable experience.
-I know I will be talking about it for the next years. . I will never forget this trip, thank you.
-For those planning on attending a future trip, please come on and go. You will have the time of your life. I forgot to take my medicine a few times and not once had any issue out on the river, unlike back in town.
Statements from supporters and outside observers:
From Air Force General Fred Lewis in the Pentagon
“Fred, awesome!! You are Great Americans for doing this! Thanks for sharing! All the best! Fred”
General Fred Lewis, SES, PhD, USAF
Director of Weather (AF/A3O-W)
From Marine “Iron Mike” Mervosh, famous veteran of Iwo Jima, Korea, and Viet Nam:
My personal & warmest regards towards a truly professional performance in all areas by Russ Zimmerman and the Staff in all endeavors. I may be part of the Greatest Generation, and there is no doubt that part of this grateful generation that will become another Great Generation.
God Bless you all and Continue to March.
Keep charging, and Semper Fi.
“Iron Mike” Mervosh.
Comments from the June 2012 whitewater trip
-Miracles happen on the river. New perspectives, greater vision for life goals, a chance to discover new sprouts of hope within. …able to link their new commitment to life specifically to this trip down Cataract Canyon.
-I am a PTSD Psychologist who had the opportunity to accompany several combat veterans on a recent raft trip. So often, the work I do with veterans involves having them identify their problems and focusing upon painful aspects of their lives. It was so rewarding to see veterans who normally isolate and are often caught up in their head and traumatic memories, to get to laugh, bond with other veterans, and be reminded of their strengths and passions. I think that it is the happiest that I have seen some of these veterans in years. The impact of this trip goes beyond a few days of fun, as I have also observed the participants utilize this positive experience as a jumping off point for getting reconnected with the outdoors and be more willing to try new things in the months afterward.
From the participants:
-Personally, I have had a life changing experience and plan to use the trek as a springboard for the future.
-Lyndon told me yesterday that the trip was the best in his life. (Royal British Marine)
-I can’t thank you enough for the friendship you gave me and the memories, I will cherish them for the rest of my life… And if you ever need anything from this end of the pond, then just call, text or email me. (Royal British Marine)
-From a Viet Nam SkyCrane pilot that was shot down: I will never forget the experience. It was something very special. Take Care, BOB ARCHER
Comments from the June 2011 inaugural whitewater trip
-One of the Marines said that his trip has now given him another reason to live. And it was a sea change for two PTSD sufferers from Idaho who had been reclusive for a number of years, now feel that they want to get out into the world, planned a motorcycle ride together and other activities as soon as they got back. Another said that he didn’t realize that people cared about the Wounded Warriors.
-“The experience I had these 4 days was beyond incredible.”
-Another writes, “For the first time in 5 years I have managed to do something and actually enjoy myself very much, and (it) has given me ambition to other things.” “I have a very hopeful future.” “I believe this has made a big change in my life. A new chapter of hope and happiness.” “I would just like to say this is a very big deal for me.” “It is to replace some bad memories with some good ones. I am eternally grateful for this trip.”
-“I can’t recall a time in years that I’ve had as much fun or felt so welcome.”
-From one of the guides: “Fred, Thanks for these written comments. I was sitting in Washington DC when I got them and actually had to excuse myself from the group when I read them because of the well of emotion that sprang up. These notes are so great…”