How do you say thank you to men who have put themselves on the line so that you can go about your daily life? That may have not been the actual task at hand during a whitewater trip almost a month ago, but it was something that the Dave Hansen Whitewater guides on said trip wanted to do.
On June 18th Bud Chatham, owner of Dave Hansen Whitewater & Scenic, took a group of four veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars down the mighty Snake River. He brought along a handful of trusty Dave Hansen employees, and I was luckily allowed to come along for the ride.
And what a ride it was. Not only did I get more water up my nose then I thought possible, but the trip became a bit of an emotional ride for me as well.
To be honest, I didn’t think the vets would want to talk about their time fighting. However, they were very open about their experiences, and obligingly answered our questions. As we got to know each other, I realized that individuals who have been through more than I’ll ever understand surrounded me. Most of the men had joined the army as soon as they turned eighteen. While they spent their summer after high school going through basic training and shipping off to a foreign place to fight for our country, I was worried about the bad tan lines I was getting from my summer job. Between them there was an artificial lung, and injured back, a titanium jaw, and most were partially def because of their time spent fighting- the night before I had been complaining about a bruised knee. To say the least, it put my life into perspective.
But our river trip wasn’t about the past. It was about being glad for the present moment, for what we all had, which at that moment included the majesty of the natural world and good company. As we rowed down the river, Bud’s commands were met with unmatched precision- true to Army form. We had an amazing time looking for osprey, spinning the boat, and listening to T-Bone crush it on the harmonica- and I think Bud had an especially amazing time watching his commands preformed with perfection.
Our trip ended far too quickly. I wanted more time to talk to these heroes, to hear their stories, to tell them how grateful I was for the sacrifices they have made. But our boat was nearing the take out, and our time was up. As I racked my brain for some way to express my appreciation, one of our guides, Kyle, spoke up. He said, “Thank you for making this all possible”.
It was a simple statement, but one that was filled with meaning and truth.
On the Fourth of July I am again reminded of this trip almost a month ago, and of the inspiring strength, kindness, and joie de vivre that those veterans exhibited.
So, as simple and small as one person’s thanks may be, I just want to steal a bit of this blog space to say thank you to all veterans on this day of independence.
Thank you for making this all possible.