VAIL, Colorado - Gabrielle Lynn and her son Ryan burst into the house on a spring Sunday in 2007, fresh from church and ready for the rest of their day.
Then the satellite phone rang.
Her husband, Staff Sgt. Justin Lynn, was calling from Baghdad. The conversation was brief: "Hey, babe, it's me. They got me."
"Who got you?" Gabrielle asked, her heart sinking to the floor.
"They got me," Justin repeated, and could say no more, his voice breaking from the agony of having part of his right leg blown off by a roadside bomb. Justin handed the phone to a sergeant who explained to Gabrielle what had happened just moments before, half a world away, and that they were rushing Justin to the hospital.
Gabrielle's sparkling brown eyes filled with tears as she hung up the phone, turned to 3-year-old Ryan and tried valiantly to explain why she was crying.
"Daddy broke his leg and he's coming home from the desert," she told her son.
She knew he was alive, but nothing more.
Vail is filled this week with stories of heroes and sacrifice. The Vail Veterans Program is hosting its latest group of military veterans, all wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It's the program's eighth year, and it continues to grow, as does the number of wounded veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, says Cheryl Jensen, who started it and still runs it.
"There's no end in sight," Jensen says about both the war and the Vail Veterans Program. "We'll continue as long as there's a need."
Snow sports help wounded veterans learn what they can do, instead of thinking about what they cannot, Jensen said.
The Vail Veterans Program started with one group for one week in the winter of 2004. They expanded to two one-week winter sessions and added a summer session a few years ago.
Soldiers come from all over. Walter Reed Army Medical Center, of course. Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, just came on board.
"I just kept knocking on their door until they let me in," Jensen said.
The Brooke staff is protective of their veterans. When they finally opened their metaphorical door to Jensen, she walked into a room filled with 220 uniformed military personnel. The opening act was a four-star general. He didn't stand a chance.
Jensen showed slides of the program, talked passionately about the soldiers and the ways the program helps them.
"It helps build confidence, it helps build families," Jensen said.
Add the Brooke Army Medical Center, the Center for the Intrepid and the Warriors in Transition Unit to the growing list of Vail Veteran Program fans.
The trips to Vail don't cost the veterans or their families a dime, but they're not free. Jensen is always looking for donations and volunteers.
Ask the veterans how they were injured and they'll usually tell you. They're a genial group.
There's a bomb or an ambush. There's chaos, the injury, the agony and a phone call home like the one Gabrielle received, either from a buddy or the Red Cross.
Then the soldiers start down the long road to recovery. Some of it's physical, obviously. But almost as much is mental and emotional, for the soldiers and their families.
"Gabrielle held the family together," Justin said.
It's frustrating, so they can be short-tempered, Justin said. Information can be tough to retain, they look around to see who's in the room, they watch people's hands.
"There's a lot of talking, a lot of therapy," Justin said.
Sometimes, eventually, they end up in places like Vail.
Justin hadn't been on the snow since 2002, and certainly not since he was injured, March 11, 2007. That's his Alive Day, the day he didn't die. These guys observe them annually in all sorts of ways, but no ever forgets them.
"It's organizations like this that provide us the opportunity to do these kinds of things again," he said.
In 2005, Kade Hinkhouse was a Marine in Ramadi, Iraq, when he was hit.
When Jensen met Kade Hinkhouse, he weighed 80 pounds less than he does now and was a patient in Walter Reid. He couldn't speak. He could barely move.
Now you can't stop him.
Kade is married to his adorable hometown girlfriend; Cheryl and husband Bill went to the wedding. Kade threw out the first ball a couple years ago when the Colorado Rockies played in the World Series. Lots of other honors have come his way and life, in general, is pretty good.
This is his fifth trip to town for the Vail Veterans Program.
Major David Rozelle co-founded the Vail Veterans Program with Jensen.
"It builds confidence. The veterans leave Vail feeling like they can do anything even after losing limbs," Rozelle said. "We believe it is important families have time away from every day life to be with one another. We see families leave our program with renewed spirit and inspiration that anything is possible."
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.