Guest Writer: Mike Groff, Four Season Fighters, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer
It was around 4am. We were working ourselves up the mountain to get to the ridge top before sunlight. The goal was to get Jose into a position to create an opportunity for him to get his first mule deer. It was windy…I mean like really windy…constant 40mph winds with gusts up to 50…and we made it just before sunrise.
On March 3, 2012, Jose was sent on a foot patrol with other members of the 5/20 Infantry Battalion in Kandahar, Afghanistan. While attempting to aid a fellow soldier seriously injured in a blast, he inadvertently stepped on another improvised explosive device (IED). The subsequent explosion resulted in the loss of both legs, his right arm, and partial amputation of his left hand. Jose remained conscious throughout the ordeal while his teammates worked heroically to save his life, readying him for airlift to the hospital.
Jose’s story is a remarkable one…and if you ever get the chance to meet him, he is an inspiration like none other. He is my friend, he is my brother and I’m proud to call him such. Our goal was to try and get Jose his first mule deer. If you know Jose at all, you know things like missing limbs are not enough to keep him from wanting to get to a mountaintop. Any mountaintop, literal or metaphorical. So up we went. With a tracked wheelchair set up for him, Zach, Tyler and I pushing on the chair and with Jose in full throttle most of the time…we climbed that mountain…one broken branch and crunchy cowbell at a time. It became almost laughable…trying to ‘sneak’ up this mountain sounding something between a train derailment and a wailing 2 year old child who didn’t get the toy he/she wanted. At one point I turned around and looked at Jose after he ran over the 134,847th dead dry branch that made a remarkably loud ‘snap’ and said, “Dude,….are you AIMING for sh*#??” We all started to laugh.
As the sun came up, and the landscape revealed itself to us as a beautiful morning sun only could…we sat there….huddled behind Jose in the wheelchair, covering him with blankets and jackets as we used him as a windbreak. We laughed. We huddled together. We sat silent. We just took in what we had just accomplished for our friend. We had worked together and made it up into the top of mule deer country. Something that would have been nearly an impossible task by himself, and although I know Jose would have likely tried because he is as resilient as they come, most men wouldn’t have even bothered to dwell on the idea for a single minute because of the impossibility. As we sat up there together, huddled in the wind, taking in the smell of the fresh air laden with the scent of Ponderosa Pine and sage — we started talking about how cool it would be if we could do this for others who wouldn’t or could not do this for themselves. Four Season Fighters was born on the top of a mountain in the fall of 2018, with 4 individuals working together to do what was thought impossible. Since then….the growth has been remarkable.
Our mission is simple – to help veterans, firefighters, and police officers whose lives have been altered permanently because of the sacrifices they made while serving our country and communities, making what they once thought impossible, possible. But what does that mean?
We weren’t interested in providing an amazing “weekend experience”, where folks could come out, have a great time, high five and go back home to status quo. We were not, are not, and will never be interested in that. We want to make GENIUNE, long lasting, generational change for individuals and families. Build a community, a brotherhood, a sisterhood – the type of community many of us have or used to have when we served. For many, that community – that brother or sisterhood – is lost when we leave where we serve. For many, whether fire, police or military service personnel….it feels like the door just hits you on your ass on the way out with a swift pat on the back if you’re lucky and a “Good luck with that out there”. Veterans and first responders are different people. A different breed. An amazing breed who constantly put the needs of others before themselves. They are the helpers. The problem solvers. The protectors and hero’s who put themselves and their own personal wellbeing aside for the betterment of others. True selflessness. Many times unfortunately, that comes at a great cost to us as individuals, as well as our families. We wanted to show these amazing people and their loved ones that there is a group of people who care, who understand, who love them and who are here to walk with, support, help guide and invest in them and their families. To truly make a difference and help change destructive paths being taken…to show them that they are capable of doing more than they imagined they could in the present…and give them a hope and restoration that can only come from knowing they have a community of people who understand and have their six standing beside them. To show and prove to them that they are valuable, and are capable of more than they know.
When we take folks out, we provide them with everything we can — firearms, wall tents, rangefinders, binoculars, camo, stoves, packs….anything they’ll need for the current hunt or adventure, as well as the next one, and the many more to come after our first trip with them is complete. We help them learn to shoot, or re-learn to shoot from a different hand, eye or physical challenge, teach them about the animals and hunting techniques as best we can. We want them to be able to continue to hunt with their families and friends, and get outdoors into the mountains where so much healing begins. We’ll take them up mountains, down rivers… wherever healing needs to happen. We have built a community — one that is far from complete and is continually growing. One that keeps in touch throughout the year. One that helps meet needs for more than a weekend. Who walks through the ups and downs with our people. We are honored and blessed to be a part of what is happening. Thank you to those who partner with us – without you, none of this would be possible. You are truly making life- long, genuine changes in those we serve.
Join Norma Precision in helping to change the lives of those who have sacrificed so much for the betterment of our communities. To learn more on how you can volunteer with Four Season Fighters or to make a donation, please visit their website.