Blue skies and fresh snow set the perfect scene for wounded, ill and injured military athletes to face on-snow challenges during the 13th annual Wounded Warrior Operation Mountain Freedom, a Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra winter program for adaptive military athletes.
But the program is much more than adaptive skiing — Operation Mountain Freedom enables American veterans with disabilities to conquer their fears, learn new skills, make new friends, and be honored by the community for their service and sacrifices.
Among the veterans at this year’s program was Corporal Roy Cratty. Roy and his wife, Carole, have been involved with Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra for years. Roy served in the Korean War, often called the “forgotten war” for how its heroes were treated when they returned home. He has dealt with PTSD for decades.
This past fall, Roy and Carole lost their home — and Roy’s Purple Heart — in the Paradise Fire in California. The organizers of Operation Mountain Freedom found a way to have the military decoration reissued to Roy during the last day of the program.
The Purple Heart was presented by the commanding officer at the U.S. Marines’ Mountain Warfare Training Center at Pickel Meadows, which is just north of Mammoth Lakes (the future home of the National Wounded Warrior Center). In the 1950s, Roy was part of the very first class at Pickel Meadows.
Roy and Carole stood together on stage to receive his new Purple Heart. After the ceremony, Roy had four words for the news reporters who were there: “Honored. Humble. Stunned. Appreciative.”
You can see Roy at Operation Mountain Freedom in this video starting at 2:09.