Last weekend, 20 combat veterans attended a four-day retreat at Deer Lake hosted by Veterans Community Response (VCR).
The retreat is one of five retreats for wounded and traumatized combat veterans hosted by VCR in Washington and Montana each year. In addition to a wide variety of outdoor activities, veterans worked with trauma clinicians, peer mentors, Native American Elders and other participants to support their post war readjustment.
“Our goal is to help combat veterans find their path to productive and satisfying post-combat lives,” explained SVFD firefighter Darrin Coldiron, who founded the organization in 2009. “During every opening ceremony, we dedicate the retreat to a combat vet who’s lost their life in war as a reminder of why we’re doing this.”
Nearly 10 years ago, Coldiron was asked to “do something for US combat veterans”. Not being a veteran himself, he began asking veterans what they wanted and who was doing good work to support them. He identified an unfilled need – Combat Veteran Retreats. Coldiron eventually connected with the Spokane Veterans Center and with strong support from Spokane Valley Fire Department leadership and employees, formed Veterans Community Response.
“Without the Department’s support, Veterans Community Response would never have been possible,” Coldiron said. “Ongoing financial contributions of individual SVFD employees are still one of the main sources of operating revenue for VCR.”
The organization has grown to become a non-profit (501c3) organization composed of firefighters, veterans and therapists working diligently to support combat veterans in their post war readjustment process. In addition to the four-day retreats, VCR also hosts one-day ski and whitewater rafting trips each year. And, VCR provides opportunities for combat veterans to do useful and rewarding work by helping Northwest communities prepare for and recover from disasters such as wildfires and floods.
“We believe in the healing value of service,” explained Coldiron. “We’ve identified the need to connect combat veterans with opportunities to continue serving. By providing veterans with the tools and opportunities to serve their communities, we’ve been able to help make a positive and measurable impact on the lives we’ve touched.”
Darrin Coldiron was born and raised in Missoula, Montana. He attended the University of Montana studying sociology with an emphasis on counterculture groups and religions. After spending his twenties learning about people and life, Darrin decided to become a professional firefighter because he wanted a career where he could use his mental and physical strengths to help people and build community. He joined the Spokane Valley Fire Department in 2000 and is currently assigned to SVFD Edgecliff Station #6.
Learn more about Veterans Community Response by visiting www.vetcomres.org.