Giving Back: Vail Veterans Program
Lieutenant Nathan Rimpf cruises down Lindsey’s with the Vail Veterans Program.
On July 8th, 2012, while serving in Afghanistan, U.S. 1st Army Lieutenant Nathan Rimpf stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED). While injured from the IED, the Lieutenant was able to remain calmly in control and effectively move his unit to a safer area of the grounds. It wasn’t until after his unit was in a more secured environment that Lieutenant Rimpf acknowledged his legs were severely injured. Less than two hours after the explosive went off, he was in the military hospital being stabilized for severe leg injuries and blood loss. On July 8th, 2012, Lieutenant Nathan Rimpf lost both of his legs.
For ten years, The Vail Veterans Program has been giving back to those that have been severely injured while serving our country. The program transforms the lives of veterans and their families by providing world-class outdoor experiences within the Vail Valley.
Vail Veterans is designed to provide injury therapy through outdoor recreation and by spending time with other veterans. During the winter season, this includes skiing and snowboarding. While the summer event includes whitewater rafting, ziplining, horseback riding, fly fishing, golf, and mountain biking. For many of the veterans, during points of recovery, performing any of these activities would seem nearly impossible. The Vail Veterans Program makes these ideas a reality. And for most families, watching these achievements happen is a significant turning point for each caregiver.
“Pre-injury I was a runner, athlete, and in the best shape of my life but I couldn’t snow ski at all. My family had talked about taking a big ski trip out west for years. When I was injured, they dropped the idea. Now we’re actually planning it and they’re all wondering if there will be anyone who can keep up with me,” states Rimpf.
After just six trips mono-skiing, Rimpf glides comfortably on all levels of terrain.
Most veterans who participate in the program come directly from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Brooke Army Medical Center, and the Naval Medical Center. Lieutenant Nathan Rimpf attended Walter Reed undergoing four major surgeries, nine total procedures, and outpatient therapy. For Rimpf, now a double amputee below the knee on the left and “through the knee” on the right, downhill skiing initially seemed out of reach.
This season marked Rimpf’s first trip with the Vail Veterans Program although he had the opportunity to get on the mountain last year at Breckenridge. Share one lift ride with him and find that he exudes strength, optimism, and courage, all of the characteristics of a hero. For Rimpf’s coach, Doug Morrell of Vail Ski School Adaptive programs, it was a truly rewarding time. Providing one on one coaching to Rimpf and watching his progression while in the program moved him and created a life-long bond between the two. Rimpf has shown dramatic improvement on the mountain, even able to take on double black diamonds and moguls. Now, Rimpf cruises quickly and confidently down the slopes.
Rimpf with adaptive ski instructor Doug Morrell.
Rimpf adds, “Vail Veterans program was the best therapy trip I’ve been on—and I’ve been on over a dozen. It always helps the wounded to be out and active with others like them. It helps the newly wounded see those who have been wounded for a while up, active, and thriving. It’s inspirational to my supporters and followers to see me on top of the mountain.”
The Vail Veterans Program is a small way of thanking the country’s heroes like Lieutenant Nathan Rimpf and helping those injured to regain confidence through outdoor adventure. Help to support those injured through military service by donating to the non-profit, 501c3 Vail Veterans Program at: http://vailveteransprogram.org/donate/