Letter from founder…
Warriors on Cataract Canyon takes our Wounded Warriors on multi-day whitewater raft trips on the Colorado River through Canyonlands National Park, Moab to Lake Powell. 2017 was our seventh year running these raft trips, 22 trips to date. Of the 500 or so veterans and caregivers and supporters that have come along, we have lost none to taking their own lives. This is in contrast to the 7000 or so that die by their own hand each year.
We create photo albums each year and are given out to all of the participants on the Cataract Canyon whitewater trips. They serve the participants as something to bring them back to the experiences of their raft trip, to recall that they had a very good time with their buddies (without alcohol), and to keep up their contact with them.
These 4 day whitewater excursions in the remote and peaceful and beautiful wilderness of Canyonlands National Park offer a very effective setting for disabled veterans to communicate and bond with those other vets who understand. We see a myriad of evidences that the connections and bonds that are spawned on these river adventures are effective benefits in bringing these soldiers and airmen back home, back into society. We feel we are helping to heal the visible and invisible wounds suffered in their military experience.
Many tell us the trip has been life-changing. Some tell us they have weaned themselves of substance abuse, a ubiquitous symptom of military experience and lack of enough support upon returning home. Some have thanked us for saving their lives. VA Therapists tell us that some have been taken off High Risk Suicide Watch after the raft trips. The therapists also tell us that these soldiers are the best healers among themselves. We sense that these raft trip adventures are making a very positive difference in the supportive bonds that are created.
Perhaps the healing of soldiers by each other is well said by Lt. General Bernard Trainor (Korea, VietNam), “But as earlier generations know, often the best medicine for bruised bodies and psyches is communion with those who have supped from the same bitter cup. From the dawn of civilization, hunters and warriors shared danger in packs. Through the ages, comrades have sustained each other through the heat of battle. Comrades play the same role when the war is done.”
The first was for 2nd Battalion 7th Regiment (2/7) Marines out of Helmand Province and two Royal British Commandos. The Brits, as NATO troops, fought in our conflicts. The second launch consisted of Salt Lake area vets, and the third was largely Cheyenne VA Hospital. We also drew from the Phoenix area.
Three of the trips are in late Spring when the water is high, rapids big. Combat soldiers are adrenaline junkies.
Because many of the female veterans have been assaulted (reportedly 1 in 2) and raped (1 in 3) and would be uneasy camping with male soldiers, one trip is All Female. We put this trip in September when the river is low flow, the water is warm, the beaches are wide, and the rapids are suitable for putting the women in paddle boats and sport kayaks. They were also able to float the rapids in their life jackets, a big hit and confidence builder. There was also yoga, meditation, mindfulness, hiking, and lots of campfire time.
– Fredrick Solheim