Operation Mountain Freedom 2017

Wounded Warrior Operation Mountain Freedom 2017 welcomed 58 athletes in its 11th year.

Operation Mountain Freedom took to the slopes and trails of Mammoth Lakes January 23rd to January 27th with one goal – to change the lives of Wounded Warriors from across the country. Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra rallied a community of support behind 58 injured service members and veterans and their families as they explored the exhilaration of winter sports and the beauty of the snow-covered landscape. With volunteer instructors from DSES and Mammoth Mountain Ski and Snowboard School, athletes spent three days skiing and boarding at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, many for the first time since their injuries. Whether skiing or snowboarding, Wounded Warriors pushed themselves to take on challenges and develop new skills. Marine veteran, Ronnie, applied his experience as a competitive hand-cyclist to mono skiing. “I had the time of my life learning a new passion on the snow,” he said. Eighty-seven-year-old Korean War veteran Bing found his ski bike exhilarating and inspiring saying “if I can do what I did on this trip, I can do most everything else.”

In addition to alpine skiing at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, Wounded Warriors and their families spent a morning Nordic skiing at Tamarack Cross Country Ski Center. Blanketed in fresh snow and bluebird skies, the forests and vistas of the lakes basin combined solace and smiles with the physical challenge of skiing. By contrast, the afternoon flying down the tracks at Woolly’s Tube Park was a raucous affair. Throughout the week, DSES and the entire Mammoth Lakes community took every opportunity to honor our Wounded Warriors and their families for their exemplary service and encourage them on the next steps of their journey. Captain Frank Frievalt and the Mammoth Lakes Fire Department along with DSES volunteer Alan Yata served up a delicious welcome dinner at Station #1, and Roger and Karen Curry opened their home for a home cooked meal and powerful conversations. Inyo/ Mono Veterans Services Officer Jessica Allmon gave a moving account of her own service in the US Army as the guest speaker at a delicious dinner provided by Ed Hurley and Burgers Restaurant, and the Good Life Café provided another special send off for our athletes.

left: Wounded Warrior Rose and DSES Board Member and Volunteer Penny Bordokas skiing at Tamarack Cross Country Ski Center; center: 84 year-old Korean War Veteran Roy and his wife Carole walk the Arch of Honor during Operation Mountain Freedom; right: DSES Staff Instructor Emily Estremo and mono skier Ronnie have some fun on the slopes during Operation Mountain Freedom.

This was such a great opportunity for me to get back to doing things that I once enjoyed and to spend some time with my son. All in all, this was the best week that I’ve had in a very long time, and I am very humbled. Thank you! – Brian, Sargent Major, Wounded Warrior Battalion, Camp Pendleton

Always a highlight of the week, Wounded Warriors, and their families passed through an Arch of Honor Thursday morning created by a record crowd that included members of a training squad from the Marines Mountain Warfare Training Center at Pickel Meadows. They were also celebrated as part of a luncheon featuring US Marine Corps General Kevin Killea and the presentation of a special award recognizing Frank Frievalt and the Mammoth Lakes Fire Department for their contributions to DSES’s Wounded Warrior programs. Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra would like to thank all of our sponsors, volunteers, and distinguished guests who helped make the 11th Annual Operation Mountain Freedom a success, especially Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, The Westin Monache Resort, Eastern Sierra Transit Authority, Sue Ebersold, Roger and Karen Curry, Burgers Restaurant, Good Life Café, and Mammoth Lakes Fire Department. As a community, we are able to make a difference in the lives of our Wounded Warriors.

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