BIG SKY — The Talons Reach Foundation, a Bozeman-based non-profit focused on serving members of the Special Operations Forces community, held their first program in the therapeutic mountains of Big Sky Resort earlier this month, immersing eight Eagles in recreational activities and holistic methods of healing.
Marine Raider and TRF president Nick Jones chose the inaugural program to begin on March 8, which is a day the founders collectively mourn.
“We were clearing this large cave complex with ISIS fighters inside of it," TRF president Nick Jones recalled of the March 8, 2020 incident.
More than a dozen special operations Marines were assisting Iraqi Security forces in a mission to eliminate an ISIS stronghold that turned into a five-hour firefight claiming two U.S. Marines: Gunnery Sgt. Diego D. Pongo, of Simi Valley, California, and Capt. Moises A. Navas, of Germantown, Maryland.
“When they were shot I went over to help with the firefight," Jones explained.
While trying to recover his two teammates, Staff Sargeant Jones was shot in the right leg, starting a long journey to recovery, one forcing him to medically retire.
"When you get hit by something like that, you’re just like I don’t know what to do now," Jones stated. "I lost my sense of purpose... I needed help, and I needed help quickly.”
Knowing he needed help, as do many other Eagles upon retirement, Jones turned his pain into purpose establishing what is now known as the Talons Reach Foundation.
“Myself and Matt [Davis] got together and we were like we can do something to help people," Jones explained. "We could find a way to get them out into the wild and actually help them heal.”
On the two-year anniversary of March 8, 2020, TRF held their first program with the help of Eagle Mount up in the mountains in Big Sky, offering SOF warriors an opportunity to find sanctuary, mindfulness, and healing - one ski slope at a time.
“We’re here to help," Jones reiterated. "We’re here to talk. We’re here to spread the word. Our reach is endless. We want to impact all of Special Operations.”
A total of eight Eagles were selected - all from Special Operations Units with representation from every military branch.
From skiing to cooking, as well as doing yoga, the group spent five days allowing the breathtaking environment of Big Sky to immerse them in their own healing process.
“You have a very reserved special operator at the beginning," Jones smiled. "You have angry guys. You have guys who won’t smile, who just kind of frown. At the end of yesterday, sure they were smoked, but they were smiling. Everyone was joking together.”
This is just the first of many programs the TRF is hoping to hold over the next year.
If you're interested in volunteering with the foundation, or Special Operations Forces member that would like to participate, click here.