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Paul Soderquist, interim pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of Brighton, volunteered for the day April 2 at Denver International Airport to assist disabled veterans on their way back from the …
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Paul Soderquist, interim pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of Brighton, volunteered for the day April 2 at Denver International Airport to assist disabled veterans on their way back from the 25th National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic in Snowmass Village March 27 to April 1.
“I escorted a visually impaired veteran to his plane going to Tucson, Ariz. It was a smaller shuttle jet just waiting there on the ramp,” he said. “We walked slowly across the ramp toward the plane. He held onto my arm on the one side, and on the other, he guided his steps with his white cane. The baggage handler saw us walking near him. He stopped what he was doing, snapped to attention and saluted the veteran.
“I don’t even know if the veteran saw this patriotic act, since he was visually impaired,” Soderquist added. “But I saw it, and all I can say is I was at that moment so very, very proud of this veteran and of this country.”
Elks Clubs have been involved with providing volunteers for the program for 15 years. The Brighton Elks Club has been involved the past nine. In addition to Elks members, area residents and members of the Greater Brighton Neighborhood Volunteers helped the veterans get to and from their flights on the way to and from the winter sports clinic.
Nearly 400 veterans participate in the event each year in Snowmass. When veterans aren’t on the slopes, there are many other activities to broaden their experience – sled hockey, scuba diving, rock climbing, snowmobiling, self-defense techniques and target shooting. A variety of educational workshops and seminars are also offered.
Brighton Elks member Jim Vincent has volunteered helping the veterans get to and from their flights for several years.
“Once you do it, you get hooked on it,” Vincent said. “To me, it’s an honor to have that opportunity to be allowed to do that. And they are so appreciative, amazingly appreciative.”
“It is an honor – an honor—to assist disabled veterans of our armed forces,” Soderquist said. “These men and women have been willing to serve this country wherever and whenever called upon. They have put themselves in harm’s way and many have paid a personal price for it. Now that they are home, it is a small thing to go out to the airport and offer some assistance to them getting to and from their aircraft.”
Monica Rehm of the Greater Brighton Neighborhood Volunteers said she was amazed at how her first time as a volunteer for the event impacted her life. She jumped right in, volunteering all six days – March 25, 26 and 27 and April 1, 2 and 3.
“Volunteering with the vets is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time now. I just didn’t know how to go about it,” Rehm said. “Thanks to Jim Vincent and the Brighton Elks, I found the avenue.
“I thought the whole experience was amazing, so I really enjoyed getting time to talk with them and learn a little about their experiences at the winter clinic,” she continued. “The vets are so appreciative of everything. Every time they would thank me for anything, I had to say I was the one that wanted to thank them for their service and sacrifices for our country, enabling us to live the lives we do. I’ve already signed up to help next year. It’s a very humbling experience.”
Vincent said he’s already looking forward to helping next year as well.
“It gives me the opportunity to give something back to the veterans who have given so much of their lives for us to live and our country and be free to do what we want to do,” Vincent said.
“Whether or not you support a particular war effort, it is always right for Americans to support our active duty military and our veterans,” Soderquist said. “They are there preserving our freedoms. It was President Ronald Reagan who officially designated the term ‘veteran’ to include those presently on active duty as well as those who had previously served. ‘Thank a vet.’”
Contact Christine Hollister at firstname.lastname@example.org, 720-628-6516, follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/aspicylife or visit her blog at www.a-spicy-life.blogspot.com.
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