For many combat veterans, fireworks are a cause of stress rather than celebration. This is the case for Carlos, a medically retired Army soldier and friend of Freedom Alliance.
Carlos attended our Alaskan fishing trip last year, and we’ve been keeping in touch. Since earlier in the year, he’s been dreading the Fourth of July fireworks barrage.
After several deployments to Iraq, where he was exposed to explosions and harrowing conditions, Carlos suffers from a traumatic brain injury that causes frequent headaches. The pain was so frustrating that he has sought out hyperbaric oxygen therapy. This consists of a body chamber in which the atmospheric pressure can be adjusted to relieve chronic migraines.
Carlos, an animal enthusiast, has also found comfort from his service dog, a Black Labrador named Phiona. Even with all the progress he’s made, however, he was worried about the effect of the fireworks.
With this in mind, Freedom Alliance designed a special week-long retreat for Carlos that would take place during our national independence holiday.
We flew him and the dog out to Denver and traveled with them to Steamboat Springs, where we arranged for Carlos and a Freedom Alliance team member to stay at the home of some very generous supporters, the Radford family.
The Radfords are more than willing to open up their lavish home to veterans, and their mountaintop dwelling provided the serenity and comfort Carlos needed.
From there, the two headed into the National Forest for camping, fishing, and hiking the Devil’s Causeway—quite a feat for someone with an injury. They returned to the Radfords’ on July 4th for a cookout and campfire.
Carlos also visited the nearby hot springs, and although the crowd was thick, he wasn’t bothered. “My wife won’t believe it,” he exclaimed, since being out in busy settings is usually upsetting to him.
For the last few days of the break, we took Carlos to Colorado Springs so he could experience horseback riding and see the famous rock formations of the Garden of the Gods. He also visited a local mission, which teaches aquaponics gardening, a way of raising fish and vegetables together in a greenhouse and a venture Carlos is interested in.
We said goodbye to a brighter, carefree Carlos on the final day of his retreat. “Thank your caring about me,” he told us, as he and Phiona left to go back to their family, having avoided the noise and distress of the holiday.