Dear Walter and Laura:
While I am still recovering from the extended weekend with the 82nd Airborne (!), I wanted to reach out to you to provide you a quick update about this incredible experience and all that was accomplished thanks to your generosity.
It was a tremendously powerful and inspiring experience that I believe achieved all of the goals originally outlined by the Executive Director of the 82nd Airborne, Bill Bauer, in his call with you some time ago to create an experience to support these young men and women returning from significant service tours overseas. A total of 20 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne (18 men and 2 women with a median age of 22 years old) attended the event. They came from a variety of states (California, Mississippi, Florida, Texas, etc.), and had just returned from major deployments in Afghanistan and Kosovo where they experienced significant action and loss. They were among the youngest but most fit group of people you could imagine. All extremely impressive in terms of their bearing, military training, humor and good nature.
They arrived Saturday (somewhat late) and we hosted them for a wonderful steak dinner and full Center hospitality at the Big Barn. They next day included a variety of activities at The Center that included “boot camp” with one of our fitness instructors, a bike tour of all The Center campuses with lots of stops for interacting with our residents, guided meditation, a yoga session and a movie. That evening included another banquet dinner hosted by Patrick who inspired them with his remarks about who we care for. Marc Floyd (a former Major with the 82nd Airborne!) was on hand to welcome his fellow brothers and sisters.
On Monday, we departed for the Frost Valley YMCA Camp where the soldiers took place in other outdoor and recreational activities, including an extended fly fishing session with an instructor from West Point Military Academy who heard about this event and volunteered his services along with 3 other guides. After lunch, we did a very challenging hike up Slide Mountain which is the highest peak in the Catskills. I am pleased to provide you with the attached photo of the group on the summit of Slide Mountain! The next day included a challenging climb up their alpine tower followed by a ride on the zip line.
The final night we had a great camp fire where the soldiers each shared some very powerful testimony about their gratitude for the experience, the hospitality of The Center, the difficult things that some had experienced but most of all how inspired they were to have met the residents of The Center who impressed them with their own strength and courage. There were some very powerful and incredible moments of break-through.
Bill Bauer was a great partner in the planning of the event and he accompanied the soldiers throughout all the activities. We provided all of the soldiers with a gift bag containing your book and shared with them your life story, your motivation in wanting to pay tribute to their service and your warm words of greeting and regrets that you could not be with them. We are putting together a brief video and lots of photos that will give you a wonderful sense of all the good that came out during the weekend. You will be pleased to know that many of them addressed their remarks to you personally to express their thanks for the gift of this experience. We have also developed a press release and are reaching out to new sources and social media to share news about the event and what you made possible through your donation.
We will also be sending you the special shirt, hat and water bottle that was created for all of the participants in the weekend since you were our Team Leader in spirit. I have to say that the entire experience was one of the one of most moving and inspiring experiences of my life. Our country is certainly in good hand if these men and women represent our future.
I am so sorry that you were unable to meet these soldiers and join us for a part of this event. I pray that you are doing better and that we will get an opportunity to visit soon so that I can share with you more stories about this incredible experience that you made possible.
In the meantime, please know how grateful we all are at The Center for this new partnership and how deeply grateful these wonderful young men and women of the 82ndAirborne are for this experience. May all the good that you have done come back to you in healing and strength. Your friend,
(PS – Admiral George Evans sends you his salute for what you have done for our service men/women and also sends you his best wishes for your recovery!!)