We are family: Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra and Mammoth Mountain Host OPERATION MOUNTAIN FREEDOM
Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra’s 10th annual Operation Mountain Freedom winter camp for Wounded Warriors was a tremendous success. Athletes came from nearby Camp Pendleton and Balboa Naval Medical Hospital, Wounded Warrior Battalion West, as well as from all over the country. We brought 26 Wounded Warriors from all of the armed services (Marines, Air Force, Navy, Army and Coast Guard), their families and military staff to Mammoth Mountain February 1-5. A total of 47 participants and over 50 volunteers were brought together for this amazing week of winter sports and fun.
Warriors from various theaters of war were in attendance, including several from Vietnam and Korea, as well as more recent conflicts. The mix of veteran and active duty athletes allowed for some great opportunities to share stories and camaraderie.
Mammoth Mountain Ski Area again served as the event’s chief sponsor, providing the Mountainside Conference Center as base of operations, lunches and all ski/snowboard gear, as well as lift/trail passes for all the warriors and guests. Local sponsors this year included Mammoth Lakes Fire Department, the Curry family and friends, Burgers Restaurant, Westin Monache Resort, Good Life Café, Sue Ebersold, and Eastern Sierra Transit Authority.
The group was warmly welcomed on Monday with check in at the Westin Monache Resort, which generously provided all their lodging for the week, and the annual barbecue welcome dinner at Mammoth Lakes Fire Station #1, where Capt. Frank Frievalt and crew made the warriors feel right at home. On Tuesday, the warriors and company met up with their DSES Volunteer Instructors at MMSA’s Main Lodge, and then took to the slopes for a full day of on-snow instruction, from DSES’s awesome volunteer instructors, followed by dinner at the home of Roger and Karen Curry.
Wednesday started with Nordic skiing and snowshoeing at Tamarack Lodge, then more on-snow instruction back at MMSA’s Main Lodge. Ed Hurley and Burgers Restaurant played host to the warriors for dinner, another longstanding OMF custom. Burgers also welcomed our partners from Canine Companions for Independence for a presentation on all that these amazing service animals can do for an athlete with special needs.
Thursday morning was highlighted by the Arch of Honor and then a return to alpine skiing and snowboarding. Thursday’s special luncheon was spectacular with the room decorated in red, white and blue by DSES Volunteer Amy Ambellan and her team. The Marine Corp color guard, courtesy of the Marine Warfare Training Center at nearby Pickel Meadows, started off lunch on a solidly patriotic note.
Rusty Gregory was presented with a plaque by DSES board president Andy Colosardo and ED Kathy Copeland. Col. Willy Buhl was the keynote speaker and his words were poignant and heartfelt.
Thursday afternoon brought all the participants to Woolly’s Adventure Park for an incredible afternoon of tubing fun! Thursday night’s farewell dinner at the Good Life Café provided more emotional moments, with several warriors, who say they never speak up much, saying their thanks for what Operation Mountain Freedom brought to their lives. We also want to say a special thanks to the Veterans Affairs and the Patriot’s Initiative for their support and grant funding.
Wounded Warrior Victor said Thursday afternoon “this was the best day of my life!”
WW Nicole said “thank you for this opportunity to make me feel a little more normal.”
WW Mauricio’s favorite memory was “being able to overcome challenges with my son by my side.”
WW Donnie said he was “Boarding like I’ve never boarded before. You guys gave us a lot of confidence… It was the greatest experience of my life!”
WW Logan said “my wife is amazed in what y’all have done for me.It’s my goal in life to give my wife and kids this experience, I want to bring them next year.”
The next DSES Wounded Warriors camp is the Operation High Altitude summer camp, June 6-10. For more information, call 760.934.0791 and log on to www.disabledsportseasternsierra.org. For more information on the National Wounded Warrior Center, log on to www.woundedwarriorsmammoth.org.