PITTSFIELD -- There are different ways to show appreciation for the veterans who served this country. Some are more fun than others.
On Sunday, five veterans from Soldier On, a nationally recognized nonprofit organization that provides shelter and support for area veterans, made the trip to Bousquet Ski Area for skiing lessons.
"I've been thinking about this for a while," said Cynthia Bartlett, director of the Ski School at Bousquet. Bartlett's father is Robert "Doc" Miller of Richmond, a local Vietnam veteran.
"I grew up in the military," she said. "I appreciate what veterans have done for this country. Even if it makes them smile for the time they're here, I think it would be worth it."
And it apparently was.
"We had a great time," said Jeff Lamoureux of Worcester, one of the veterans who skied, "It was a lot of fun."
Lamoureux, like the other four men, had been on skis before.
"Well, about 14 years ago," he said, with a laugh.
"If there was one thing I'd like to say, it's that the staff here was great," said veteran Scott Collins of Holyoke. "They really went out of their way to be helpful."
The ski instructors all volunteered their time. The entire trip was at no cost. The ski rentals and lift tickets were all on the house.
"It was a good experience for us," said instructor Jack Salatino. "It was good to get to know them."
"They gave so much for their country," said another instructor, Austin LaFrance. "I think we all figured we should give something back to them."
The veterans started out on the beginners' slope, "but after one run, they wanted to get on a lift," LaFrance said. "I know they had all skied before, but they took to it pretty quickly."
"I was kind of surprised they picked it up so quickly," said another instructor, Brett Tuggey.
"They were fine," LaFrance said. "Nobody fell, they were all pretty good."
And in fact, after the initial hour, all five men opted to stick around.
"Yeah, we're going to close this place down today," said veteran John Sudel.
Although this was a one-shot deal, Bartlett said she will be discussing with the ownership of the ski area the possibility of not only doing this again, but on a regular basis. She emphasized that these discussions are only preliminary.
"But I love to see these guys again," she said.
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