Local military veterans who have been injured in the line of duty are getting a big "thank you" this week in Western Pennsylvania.
Seven Springs Mountain Resort in Somerset County is hosting more than a dozen families on behalf of the Wounded Warrior Patrol, a non-profit organization based out of Carlisle that aims to reconnect and support families impacted by deployment -- mainly through winter activities.
Not to be confused with the Wounded Warrior Project, Wounded Warrior Patrol was formed in 2011 by volunteers who also work as members of the ski patrol at Roundtop Mountain Resort and other local ski resorts. Since 2012, the Patrol has financed all-expense paid trips to Seven Springs once a year for veterans who meet their criteria.
Charlie Dunn of Camp Hill, a Vietnam veteran, came on the trip last year and was so moved by the group's mission, he became a volunteer for future trips.
This year, he brought along his long-time friend Jim Mennucci who served -- and was injured -- alongside him during one of two tours to Vietnam.
"We were Navy divers," Dunn said. "I've known him 48 years. He's like my brother."
Mennucci has since been diagnosed with ALS and is confined to a wheelchair.
"It's kind of sad seeing him waste away now that he's got ALS and it's getting weaker and weaker in his legs, and so I said 'Jim, you have got to come out here. I came out here last year and you're gonna get treated like a king'," Dunn said.
Joined by his son Mike, Mennucci used adaptive ski equipment, courtesy of Three Rivers Adaptive Sports of out of Pittsburgh, and hit the slopes sitting down.
"This is so exciting," Mike Mennucci said. "I haven't been skiing with him in probably 15 years, and the fact that we get to do it now -- this is just absolutely amazing that these guys put this event on these wounded warriors."
Other veterans are able to ski more traditionally. William Santos of Lebanon came on the trip with his wife Betsy and their four sons. The former Army combat engineer lost his left arm in an IED attack in Iraq in 2006.
"You don't necessarily have to have been in an explosion to have a wound -- there's the physical wounds and the mental wounds that occur being in a place where you've never been before," Santos said. "It's strange."
He says activities like this aren't really for him, but those who support him every day.
"They deserve much more than what we do -- I believe that," he said.