FORT HUACHUCA — The Sierra Vista Area Chamber of Commerce’s Military Affairs Committee (MAC) highlighted the importance of healing the country’s warriors at its semi-regular luncheon on Wednesday, held at Fort Huachuca’s Thunder Mountain Activity Center.

Boulder Crest Retreat founder Ken Falke, who established the wellness center in Virginia in 2013, spoke to both Sierra Vista city and military leaders about his vision for the organization, which opened a location in Sonoita in 2017.

Falke, who retired from the Navy after 21 years of service, explained that his idea for Boulder Crest first grew from another organization he co-founded with his wife, Julia. The EOD Warrior Foundation primarily supports soldiers who were wounded while disposing of explosive ordnance, a dangerous job Falke had done himself in the Navy.

The Falkes began bringing the wounded soldiers and their families to their beautiful, 200-acre home in Virginia through the EOD Warrior Foundation, and were inspired to turn part of the expansive property into a retreat.

“In the first year (of Boulder Crest), what we focused on primarily was getting these amputee families out of the hospitals and out to these little cabins in the Blue Ridge Mountains,” he said. “And what we realized really quickly was that rest bit was important, but it wasn’t what was really needed at the time — what was really needed was (to support) the people who were coming back from war who didn’t have physical injuries.”

While there were numerous retreats and trips offered to physically wounded service members, those suffering from “invisible” injuries — namely, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder — received less attention. Programs centered around PTSD recovery and Post-Traumatic Growth — or helping an individual to find a new sense of personal strength following trauma — became a focus of Boulder Crest, said Falke, who traveled around the country researching the best ways to help affected soldiers and families.

After several successful years, demand for the programs and services offered by Boulder Crest grew, which led the organization to open a location in the West. Boulder Crest Retreat Arizona is located on a 130-acre ranch in Coronado National Forest, which features guest homes, hiking, horseback riding, and fishing, among other therapeutic activities.

Generous donations allow the intense healing programs, as well as family “R&R,” remain free of charge for eligible combat veterans, first responders, and their families, according to the retreat’s website.

“If you have soldiers, veterans that were in your units that are out now that you know are suffering, send them our way,” said Falke.

Anyone interested in learning more about Boulder Crest Arizona, or who knows a veteran or first responder in need of help, can contact Joe Wood, the Sonoita retreat’s executive director.

“The primary thing we’re trying to achieve here is change the culture overall — nationally, internationally, about how to solve post-traumatic stress systems,” said Wood. “One of the ways to do it is to understand what post-traumatic growth is and help them to spread that message.”

The retreat is also always looking for volunteers to help with maintenance of the expansive property, said Wood, especially with upcoming programs, including a gold star and military teen weekend retreat, around the corner.

The MAC luncheon wrapped up by presenting awards to several of Fort Huachuca’s outstanding soldiers and civilians. The next luncheon will be held on May 1. To register, visit sierravistachamber.org/.

More information about Boulder Crest Retreat can be found at www.bouldercrestretreat.org.

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