Disabled vets enjoy a soak at Glenwood Hot Springs | PostIndependent.com

Disabled vets enjoy a soak at Glenwood Hot Springs

Dale Shrull
Special to the Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Kelley Cox Post Independent

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – In the winter of 1950, Tony Bryant was in a tiny corner of Korea hunkered down in a foxhole as frostbite chewed away at his hands and feet.

On Tuesday, the 79-year-old Stockton, Calif., man smiled and relaxed while soaking in the 104-degree water of the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool.

Bryant is taking part in the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, headquartered this week in Snowmass Village.

The trip to the Hot Springs Pool is one of the non-skiing activities the clinic offers the attending veterans.

“I love coming down here. It’s nice and hot,” Bryant said of the pool.

On Tuesday morning, Mark Bean of the Glenwood Springs Elks Lodge was helping cook up some trout caught by fellow member John Grosholz. The lodge was getting lunch ready for the next group of disabled veterans to arrive.

For the past three years the Elks Lodge has been preparing a hot lunch for the veterans who attend the Winter Sports Clinic. After lunch, the vets mosey over to the Hot Springs Pool for a couple of relaxing hours soaking in the soothing mineral waters.

Now in its 25th year, and 12th year in Snowmass Village, the Winter Sports Clinic welcomed 378 disabled veterans on Saturday, along with an army of volunteers 600 strong, on Saturday for the week-long event. The event is organized by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Disabled American Veterans.

The clinic got off to a rousing start with the appearance of Vice President Joe Biden, who spoke to veterans at Sunday’s opening ceremonies.

Teresa Parks, operations director for the event, says that Snowmass Village and the Roaring Fork Valley is the ideal place for this special gathering.

The Glenwood trip is one of the most popular non-skiing activities of the clinic.

All participants in the clinic must ski – either downhill or cross-country – as part of their rehabilitation program. Vets can then choose the other activities they wish to enjoy.

The downvalley activities of the clinic include shooting (guns or archery) at the Basalt shooting range, fly-fishing on the Crystal River outside Carbondale and the trip to the pool.

The Elks Lodge brings in about 10 volunteers daily to make lunch and serve the veterans.

“It’s very rewarding. What these men and women have gone through, it’s just our way to show appreciation for their service,” Bean said.

Elks Lodge members in Glenwood Springs and Rifle also prepare lunch and help at Basalt’s Lake Christine shooting range.

Navy veteran Denny Wilson of Atlanta heaped high praise on the efforts of the Elks Lodge chapters that volunteer for the event.

“I can’t say enough for the Elks Lodge. They make us lunch, meet us at the airports, they help us get on and off the airplane, they do a great job,” the 64-year-old Vietnam vet said.

The trip to the pool has been part of the Winter Sports Clinic for at least six years.

Bryant said the camaraderie he has with fellow vets is what makes the Winter Sports Clinic special.

“You always make new friends and you never lose them. We’ve all gone through some of the same things,” he said from his wheelchair in the lobby of the Hot Springs Pool. “We understand each other, and we can talk to each other, and we can help each other.”

Skiing is a big part of the trip for Wilson and Bryant.

Bryant said he’s had the same instructor every year he’s come.

“She’s a beautiful lady,” he said with a big smile. “Everyone is so nice here. Everyone wants to thank us, but I need to thank all of them.”

Steve Moffitt, 59, an Army veteran from Rhode Island, said the pool trip made for a fabulous day.

“I’ve got a spinal cord injury and other injuries, so it felt great to get into the hot water,” he said.

He agrees that the camaraderie is special, and it can have an emotional impact. This is his ninth trip to the Winter Sports Clinic.

“I look forward to it every year,” he said, “just getting to meet all the people and to see all the people I’ve met over the years.”

Moffitt said this was just his first trip to the pool. “I really regret not coming down before,” he said with a smile.

The disabled veterans will make trips to pool through Thursday. The clinic ends Friday with activities in Snowmass Village.

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