Making peace: Profile of Marine Corps veteran Josh Rynders | SteamboatToday.com

Making peace: Profile of Marine Corps veteran Josh Rynders

Josh Rynders casts into Hahn's Peak Lake. Rynders had hoped to make a career out of the Marine Corps

— Josh Rynders had a plan for his life, and he was living it midway through a four-year stint in the Marine Corps. It all vanished in a second April 13, 2006, during his second tour in Iraq when a mortar round landed just behind him, peppering his body with shrapnel and leaving two 3-inch holes in the backs of his legs.

"Physically, I'm pretty decent," said Rynders, of Chicago. "I did six months of rehab learning how to walk and move again, and a couple years later, I was back in full swing, probably in better shape than I had been.

"Mentally, it took a long time to adjust to. I wanted to do the Marine Corps as a career."

Rynders went back to school and got a degree at University of Northern Illinois, but at times, he struggled to control his anger. He grew frustrated when his 18-year-old classmates or desk-bound professors would expound upon war and global politics.

"Sometimes, you get angry, and you don't even know why," he said.

When a friend suggested he check out Steamboat's STARS and Stripes Heroes Camp, he didn't know what to expect. What he found, he said, was "amazing."

"When I first got there, I was nervous. I thought Steamboat might be like Vail, but I was blown away," Rynders said. "When you get wounded, it messes you up pretty good. You feel lost, empty, like you have a job to do, and you're not able to do it. Being able to talk with everyone and learn you're not alone, not the only one with these feelings and experiences, you don't feel so outcast.

"The camp was absolutely amazing — probably one of the best weeks of my life."

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