LIVINGSTON, Mont. – The owner of a south-central Montana ranch is offering injured soldiers a chance to enjoy the outdoors as part of their rehabilitation.
Bill Cohen said he was inspired to provide a place where servicemen could find “therapeutic recreation and rehabilitation” after reading reports of similar efforts around the country.
“I just knew there was a need out there,” said Cohen, a retired managing director of a Wall Street firm.
Cohen has converted his six-bedroom home into a guest lodge of sorts for servicemen. Groups of six to eight soldiers are invited to enjoy a six-night stay at Cohen’s home and participate in activities such as horseback riding, fly-fishing, ATV riding and trapshooting.
This summer, Cohen hosted three groups of servicemen from major military hospitals at his 520-acre ranch in the Shields Valley.
“I’ve got this beautiful place here, why not share it with this great group of guys?” Cohen told the Livingston Enterprise.
The visitors from Sept. 14-20 included John Masters, who lost three fingers on his right hand in an explosion while serving as an Army staff sergeant in Afghanistan in January. The visit gave him the opportunity to adapt to an injury to his dominant hand.
“To relearn things is hard enough,” Masters said. “But learning to do something I didn’t do already, like fly-fish, helped me be more ambidextrous.”
Last Saturday, the group went out for some target shooting.
“They’re soldiers,” said Ross Colquhoun, who coordinates excursions for wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. “They enjoy putting a weapon back in their hands.”
Josh Rector, a 20-year-old Missouri Army specialist, has a prosthesis that allows him to operate a firearm after he lost his left hand and lower arm in the gears of a gun turret in Iraq four months ago.
“There’s a way to do everything I did before,” he said. “It’s just different.”
Rector said he grew up in the country, and being on the ranch reminds him of home.
“This trip is great,” Rector said. “I’m going to cry. We don’t want to leave.”
Maj. Garrick Rard, 38, a member of the U.S. Marine Corps, suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and a lower-back injury suffered in an IED blast in Iraq.
Last spring, Rard was admitted to Balboa Naval Medical Center in San Diego with PTSD. His symptoms include inability to complete tasks, a shortened temper and frequent nightmares that disturb his sleep.
Last weekend on the ranch, Rard slept for seven hours.
“It was the first time I’ve slept that long in as long as I can remember,” he said.
Cohen calls the program a “smashing success.”
“I just want to show them all that we all care,” Cohen said.