Operation SAS

Wounded veterans looking for a little more excitement need look no further than Operation SAS, which stands for Sports Afield and Stream. This annual production—hosted by Operation Never Forgotten (ONF), a nonprofit communications service that connects the military and civilian worlds through billboard campaigns and other media—brings dozens of wounded warriors to the Bozeman area, at no charge to them, for five full days of outdoor adventure. A star-studded banquet and fundraiser kicks off the event, with powerful, moving speeches by disabled soldiers and family members, local personalities, political figures, musicians, and national celebrities. Civilians, veterans, and active military personnel come from far and wide to participate and lend their support.

Last year’s inaugural event took place at Big Sky Resort in early January, where the warriors established a home base for their daily excursions: downhill and cross-country skiing in Big Sky, ice climbing in Hyalite, dog-sledding in the Spanish Peaks, snowmobiling in West Yellowstone, and more. The banquet speeches nearly brought the room to tears: a mother explained how the loss of her son to an insurgent’s bullet inspired her, through helping others, to become a better mother and a better American; an officer wounded in Iraq related his against-the-odds recovery and marshalling of other wounded vets to climb Mount Everest; a one-time derelict explained how a wounded warrior changed his life and gave him a personal strength he never knew existed; and a disabled cyclist told the audience how his missing limb allowed him to finally choose the life he’d always wanted. The recurring theme was one of hope, courage, and resilience—how the sacrifice and tragedy of one can inspire so many others to achieve their dreams.

Operation SAS has yet to finalize a date for its 2012 event; check operationsas.org or operationneverforgotten.org for updates.