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An open letter to Vice President Pence on Memorial Day in Vail

May 28, 2018, 10:09 am
camp hale from EcoFlight

Camp Hale from an EcoFlight flyover on Aug. 9, 2016 (Kristin Kenney Williams photo).

Dear Vice President Mike Pence, this is an open letter to you on Memorial Day thanking you for choosing Vail for some much-needed downtime on this holiday weekend and asking you to help us honor our military past, present and future.

Vail’s founder, Pete Seibert, was a wounded veteran of the 10th Mountain Division ski troopers who trained nearby at Camp Hale and later fought the Nazis in the mountains of Italy. So much of Colorado’s ski industry is linked to those alpine soldiers training between Vail and Leadville during World War II, and Camp Hale continues to be a mountain warfare training venue.

The O Zone by David O. Williams

The O. Zone
by David O. Williams

We ask you to join us in honoring those who served in the past and continue to serve, whether learning to fly attack helicopters at high altitude at the High-Altitude Army National Guard Aviation Training Site (HAATS) at the Eagle County Regional Airport in Gypsum or choosing Vail and its surrounding public lands as a place to unwind from the stress of defending freedom.

One such vet who knows the historic legacy of Camp Hale and the value of preserving public lands for restorative therapy after fighting in the world’s most explosive hot spots is Garett Reppenhagen of the Vet Voice Foundation — a former cavalry scout and a sniper with the U.S. Army First Infantry Division who served in Kosovo and Iraq.

I met Garett in 2016, Mr. Pence, before your administration took power, and he has been fighting ever since to preserve Camp Hale as part of the Continental Divide Recreation, Wilderness, and Camp Hale Legacy Act (S. 2337). Please see his press release on the topic below.

We have a long history in the Vail Valley of protecting our public lands, with many of Vail’s founding father and mothers very active in helping to preserve the nearby Holy Cross and Eagles Nest Wilderness Areas. These areas are important to our economy, our lifestyle, the health of the planet and to the many guests from all over the world who enjoy these wild places.

Please do what you can, Mr. Pence, to help convince others in your administration that public lands have value far beyond mining, logging and oil and gas drilling, and that the Continental Divide wilderness bill should get a fair hearing before Congress.

Vice President Mike Pence

Vice President Mike Pence

Also, while you’re driving around our fair valley and hopefully hiking up a lush stream drainage to a mountain meadow, please bear in mind that this beautiful place is under a great deal of drought-induced stress due to one of the worst ski seasons for snowpack in recent memory.

Temperatures are undeniably rising in Colorado, Mr. Pence, and experts are predicting decreased precipitation in the Colorado River Basin. This will impact all of the western states dependent on that critical water source, and shorter, warmer winters will also hurt our ski industry in Colorado.

Please, Mr. Pence, do what you can to convince your boss and others in the administration that global climate change is a scientific fact and that it only makes good long-term business sense to do what we can to embrace renewable energy, water conservation and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Please ask President Trump to reconsider the Paris Climate Accord.

Finally, because I’ve already taken up enough of your time on this gorgeous Memorial Day, will you please think about ways to help moderate the amount of divisive rhetoric coming out of the White House these days so that we can set a better example for our children on this graduation weekend?

We also understand your administration has very firm ideas about immigration policy and the need to respect the rule of law, but Vail was built by immigrants from Austria to Mexico, and we love our diversity as a global tourism destination and an inclusive and giving community.

My son Nicholas Williams graduated from Battle Mountain High School on Saturday, and three of his classmates were given a standing ovation because they are joining our great military. All three of them have Hispanic surnames. About half the Huskies’ graduating class is Hispanic, and there were also graduates from other countries such as Nepal, Poland and Uzbekistan.

Vail was made great and continues to thrive because of the incredibly hard work of people from Mexico, Australia, Switzerland, Norway and even some African nations that we would never deem s___hole countries.

Yes, some in our community came here illegally in search of a better life – sometimes with their parents at a very young age — and many of them then came out of the shadows to do the right thing and apply for and adhere to the stringent requirements of DACA.

These are our neighbors, friends, coworkers and fellow citizens of the world. Please, Mr. Pence, when you return to Washington for the work week, will you do everything in your power to push for comprehensive immigration reform and a deal to save the Dreamers from deportation?

As a final footnote, the Battle Mountain graduation ceremony was held at Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater – a reminder of the former president who at one time lived in the valley and helped make Vail what it is today. I interviewed Ford right after President Richard Nixon died, and Ford said he pardoned Nixon to heal the country, even though it cost him the presidency.

Still, Ford became friends with President Jimmy Carter — the man who beat him at the polls and is still an occasional Vail Valley visitor — and thereby forever gave the Vail Valley a shining example of selfless sacrifice and bipartisanship benefiting the nation. Please, Mr. Pence, do what you can to encourage that spirit of reaching across the aisle in Washington.

Thank you for your time this Memorial Day, Mr. Vice President. Please enjoy your remaining time in the Vail Valley, and thank you for your consideration on these critical issues.

Respectfully, RealVail.com

And here’s the aforementioned press release from Garett Reppenhagen:

Hundreds of Colorado Veterans Urge Senator Cory Gardner to Protect Camp Hale Ahead of Memorial Day Observances

395 veterans sign letter encouraging Sen. Gardner to co-sponsor the Continental Divide Recreation, Wilderness, and Camp Hale Legacy Act

Contact: Garett Reppenhagen, repp@vetvoicefoundation.org, 719-235-7030

Colorado Springs, Colo. (May 25, 2018) – Just days before Memorial Day, 395 Colorado veterans signed a letter to Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) urging him to cosponsor the Continental Divide Recreation, Wilderness, and Camp Hale Legacy Act (S. 2337). The legislation was introduced by Senator Michael Bennet and Congressman Jared Polis, and would designate Camp Hale – the home of the WWII-era training camp of the famed 10th Mountain Division – as America’s first National Historic Landscape. The Act would also preserve other lands in Eagle and Summit counties as recreation management areas, wilderness, and wildlife conservation areas, protecting a total of 98,621 acres of the White River National Forest for future generations to enjoy.

“Honoring the 10th Mountain Division is long overdue, given their sacrifice to our country and their contribution to our state,” said Matt Styss, a veteran from Cascade, CO. “Now it is time for Senator Gardner to honor the Greatest Generation and designate Camp Hale as our nation’s first National Historic Landscape.” 

In addition to playing a critical part in winning the war, 10th Mountain Division veterans also played an important role in the development of the ski industry, turning a niche sport into one of the nation’s most popular forms of recreation. After the war, the soldiers who trained at Camp Hale came home and founded some the world-renown ski resorts in Colorado’s central mountains.  Today, outdoor recreation is critical to Colorado’s economy, generating $28 billion in consumer spending and creating 229,000 jobs that pay $9.7 billion in salaries and wages.

Mike Marion, a Colorado native, and U.S. Army veteran added, “There is a strong and definitive connection between Colorado’s outdoor recreation economic success and the 10th Mountain Division. Colorado is a national leader in public lands conservation and outdoor recreation, and I encourage Senator Gardner to honor that by cosponsoring the Continental Divide Recreation, Wilderness, and Camp Hale Legacy Act.”

Protected public lands are critically important to veterans. After returning from deployments, many veterans find peace, strength, and resilience in Colorado’s mountains, rivers, and forests.  Veterans find camaraderie with fellow veterans and reconnect with their families and friends on public lands. Whether it is hiking, camping, rafting, hunting, or fishing, Colorado’s public lands have proven to be a priceless asset for America’s veterans.

“Protecting Camp Hale and the surrounding area is way to honor generations of veterans, from World War II to Operation Enduring Freedom. Our public lands and the freedoms they represent define our nation, and I fought to defend that. Today I continue that fight by working to preserve Camp Hale and I hope Senator Gardner will join me and my fellow veterans,” added Bradley Noone, a 10th Mountain Division Veteran.

The letter to Senator Gardner closes with these words from the 395 Colorado veterans:

As veterans, we fought to protect our country, including our precious public lands. Like the veterans of the 10th Mountain Division, we find strength and resilience from being on our protected lands and waters.  We ask that you support the Continental Divide Recreation, Wilderness, and Camp Hale Legacy Act so that future generations may learn its significant history and enjoy its natural beauty.

To view the letter and signers, please visit: http://bit.ly/2IIaGTk


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David O. Williams

Managing Editor at RealVail
David O. Williams is the editor and co-founder of RealVail.com and has had his awarding-winning work (see About Us) published in more than 75 newspapers and magazines around the world, including 5280 Magazine, American Way Magazine (American Airlines), the Anchorage Daily News (Alaska), the Anchorage Daily Press (Alaska), Aspen Daily News, Aspen Journalism, the Aspen Times, Beaver Creek Magazine, the Boulder Daily Camera, the Casper Star Tribune (Wyoming), the Chicago Tribune, Colorado Central Magazine, the Colorado Independent (formerly Colorado Confidential), Colorado Newsline, Colorado Politics (formerly the Colorado Statesman), Colorado Public News, the Colorado Springs Gazette, the Colorado Springs Independent, the Colorado Statesman (now Colorado Politics), the Colorado Times Recorder, the Cortez Journal, the Craig Daily Press, the Curry Coastal Pilot (Oregon), the Daily Trail (Vail), the Del Norte Triplicate (California), the Denver Daily News, the Denver Gazette, the Denver Post, the Durango Herald, the Eagle Valley Enterprise, the Eastside Journal (Bellevue, Washington), ESPN.com, Explore Big Sky (Mont.), the Fort Morgan Times (Colorado), the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent, the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, the Greeley Tribune, the Huffington Post, the King County Journal (Seattle, Washington), the Kingman Daily Miner (Arizona), KUNC.org (northern Colorado), LA Weekly, the Las Vegas Sun, the Leadville Herald-Democrat, the London Daily Mirror, the Moab Times Independent (Utah), the Montgomery Journal (Maryland), the Montrose Daily Press, The New York Times, the Parent’s Handbook, Peaks Magazine (now Epic Life), People Magazine, Powder Magazine, the Pueblo Chieftain, PT Magazine, the Rio Blanco Herald Times (Colorado), Rocky Mountain Golf Magazine, the Rocky Mountain News, RouteFifty.com (formerly Government Executive State and Local), the Salt Lake Tribune, SKI Magazine, Ski Area Management, SKIING Magazine, the Sky-Hi News, the Steamboat Pilot & Today, the Sterling Journal Advocate (Colorado), the Summit Daily News, United Hemispheres (United Airlines), Vail/Beaver Creek Magazine, Vail en Español, Vail Health Magazine, Vail Valley Magazine, the Vail Daily, the Vail Trail, Westword (Denver), Writers on the Range and the Wyoming Tribune Eagle. Williams is also the founder, publisher and editor of RealVail.com and RockyMountainPost.com.

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