Chris Chatwin watches his line in Hahn's Peak Lake last month. Chatwin served six tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. He now struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder and an infectious disease that leaves him short of breath almost no matter how vigorous the activity. This was his second event with other veterans, and he said there will be many more.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Chris Chatwin watches his line in Hahn's Peak Lake last month. Chatwin served six tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. He now struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder and an infectious disease that leaves him short of breath almost no matter how vigorous the activity. This was his second event with other veterans, and he said there will be many more.

Making peace: Profile of Army, Marine Corps veteran Chris Chatwin

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Chris Chatwin, an Army and Marine Corps veteran who lives in Denver, kayaks on Hahn’s Peak Lake near Steamboat Springs during the STARS and Stripes Heroes Camp. Post-traumatic stress disorder set in early during his military career and still afflicts him today.

Making peace: Adaptive sports help veterans readjust

America is embracing its disabled veterans from more than a decade of war, and in Routt County’s serenity, those wounded warriors have found a place to work through the long, dark process of coming home.

— Chris Chatwin thought he knew the price he had paid for the nine years he spent in war zones, the six tours to Iraq and Afghanistan he took with the U.S. military and the two years he spent serving as a security contractor.

He was in three improvised explosive device explosions. He was shot twice. Post-traumatic stress disorder set in early in his career and never has gone away.

PTSD terrorizes him, forcing him to wince at the thought of Fourth of July fireworks, to plot an exit out of every building he enters and, at times, to slow down to 30 mph on the interstate while he surveys the roadside for bombs.

When he was diagnosed last year with a rare infectious disease contracted during his military stint, it took from him the one thing he thought he’d escaped with: his physical health.

“That was the hardest part,” he said. “I survived all these deployments and to come back and get this disease ... I took it really hard. I almost went as far as ending myself. Through the grace of God, I didn’t.”

Chatwin, who lives in Denver, pointed to two things that have helped him get through life after war. The first is his fiancee, Katie. The second has been his interactions with other veterans. He took his first trip with fellow wounded warriors to a camp in Moab, Utah, then made his second in August to Steamboat Springs.

“I went in knowing only a few people, but I’ve made friends that will last a lifetime,” he said. “It’s just good for someone like me to go on these trips and meet people who are going through what I’m going through. Civilians don’t really understand what it is we go through.”

He’s already planning his return trip to Steamboat for a winter skiing camp.

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com

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