Two U.S military veterans, both blind and one with a right leg amputated, enjoyed the thrill of a whitewater rafting adventure recently thanks in part to four EVMS physician assistant students.
The students — Kyle Dubay, Demetrio Gant, Jeff Illinik and Elyse Troxell — are veterans themselves. They were volunteering with a charitable organization, Gathering of Mountain Eagles, that provides recreational therapy to wounded, injured and seriously ill active duty and retired military personnel.
Woody Aurentz, Executive Director of the organization, said he was concerned about how his group might care for the two special needs veterans when they showed up with 26 other veterans for an outing Sept. 1-4 in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
“These gentlemen presented us with challenges that we had never encountered before,” Mr. Aurentz said. He turned to the EVMS students to assist the veterans, Mike and Clyde.
“I asked them to be the eyes, ears, legs and sometimes comforters to these men,” he wrote in a letter praising their action. “They guided, explained, carried, pushed wheelchairs, encouraged, assisted in getting the veterans prepared for the day’s activities and were there for whatever these gentlemen needed.
“Kyle, Demetrio, Jeff and Elyse were outstanding in every aspect of care for these two veterans,” he wrote. “They are truly superb examples of veterans taking care of other veterans.
Mr. Aurentz concluded his letter with a photo. “Your students are in a raft with Mike and Clyde (the two special needs veterans). Demetrio and Elyse are propelling the raft. Jeff is explaining the upcoming rapids while Kyle is using his right arm to steady Clyde. That picture,” he wrote, “says it all.”