Letter: On any Thursday
On any Thursday, the local Vail veterans gather at the top of Vail Mountain to ski anywhere and everywhere.
Sometimes we ski east into powder, other times we ski west to groomers. Sometimes it is sunny and warm, other times it is cloudy and cold. But it is always spirited. VFW veterans have a ghost: it is a bittersweet memory of combat or a combat zone. This ghost gives us a quiet and dedicated love of life, especially life with other vets. For Lieutenant JP, we see it in his brilliant smile, especially when he turns his hearing aids off. For Sergeant Dan, it is a quiet concentration, especially when our roadrunner friend is skiing with us. For Colonels Laura and Garrett, it is the perfection of smooth turns down wide-open slopes.
For many of us, our military service is a distant and dangerous memory, in a world that was far, far away. Here on Vail mountain, coming together as VFW members, we relish the brotherhood, and enjoy joking about what were once life-or-death issues. It was once important to know the difference between a soldier and a Marine, between a grunt and an officer, between an AK and an AR. Today, those things are behind us. Gone. What is in front of us are miles and miles of open ski terrain on one of the biggest and best mountains in North America.
During the last few years, Vail Resorts has begun to honor and recognize that this mountain has a unique military veteran history, and a great current veteran presence. In fact, this ski mountain with its famous Back Bowls was discovered in 1957 by a wounded World War II veteran of the 10th Mountain Division. The original Vail Associates resort and the town of Vail were created a few years later again partially by veterans of that very same division.
Since 2004, a new organization, the Vail Veterans Program, has offered life-changing programs for thousands of seriously wounded post-9/11 veterans and their families on their road to recovery. And of course, we local VFW veterans are out there on every Thursday, skiing into miles and miles of new adventures.
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Yes, Vail is an extraordinary America mountain, and it is covered with veterans and veteran adventures, past, present and future.
Come ski some of those adventures with us … on any Thursday.
Pete Thompson, MACV Special Ops, 1968, Vice-Commander VFW Post 10721, Minturn-Mt. Holy Cross