By FRAN MAYE
LONDONDERRY - A former U.S. Marine and principal at Octorara High School is organizing a whitewater rafting trip down the Grand Canyon River for active duty Marines who are disabled, many paraplegic or quadriplegic, as a result of being wounded in action.
The trip won’t take place until late next summer, because the U.S. Park Service limits the number of river travelers allowed in the Grand Canyon each year, and because “river days” are carefully allotted to both private boaters and commercial outfitters.
Detering, a wounded Marine himself, made the trip down the Grand Canyon three times already. His daughter, Susan, has been a river guide for the past 10 years.
“This was my idea, because there are a group of U.S. Marines who are on a long road to recovery,” Detering said. “People just don’t realize that disabled veterans have a tougher time than everyone else coming back. They have a long road to recovery, and this can be fun for them.”
Detering said some of the veterans are just now learning to walk on artificial limbs. Others, he said, are immobile and have Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome. But they can still take the trip even with these disabilities, he said, with the assistance of guides. “The passengers on this trip will be combat wounded, ill, and injured, active-duty Marines, Detering said.
About 24 members of the U.S. Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment, headquartered in Quantico. Va., will make the trip. Fundraising efforts for the trip began last year, and so far, about $40,000 has been raised. The trip will cost an estimated $85,000, and includes transportation, lodging, meals and orientation for the 10-day trip.
“This is a trip of a lifetime for them,” Detering said. “I think it will be a good bonding experience too. The Marine Corps is like a fraternity.”
The outfitters will provide experienced guides, two motor rigs, a paddle raft, and the specialized equipment required to support passengers with disabilities.
Some river guides are themselves Marines who are volunteering their services, and parents of wounded and deceased servicemen have offered to help.
Detering said the wounded Marines prefer the trip because it is such a challenge. Marines, he said, take care of their own. “This trip is about being alive, being active, and abandoning limitations,” Detering said.
A whitewater rafting trip down the Grand Canyon is extremely challenging, yet exhilarating. Stretching 277 miles across northern Arizona, the Grand Canyon ranges in elevation from 2,400 feet to over 7,000 feet above sea level. In places, it is up to one mile deep and over 18 miles wide, while some of the canyon’s majestic plateaus to the north rise to 9,000 feet above sea level. Due to gigantic shifts in the region’s landmass, portions of the canyon’s North Rim are more than 1,000 feet higher than the South Rim.
The trip organized by Detering will serve as a model for future Wounded Warrior trips. If the Grand Canyon River Runners Association trip is successful, it will be offered to each branch of the military.
The trip is a certified 501 (c) (3) non profit. To donate online: http://www.gcriverrunners.org/pages/USMC_Wounded_Warrior_GC_Rafting_Trip.htm. All donations are tax-deductible. All donations go directly to the program staffed by volunteers.