Dr. K: Hope, Healing and Harmony for Veterans One Activity At A Time

Please allow me to introduce myself.  I am Dr. William R. Klinger better known as DrK and I am employed as a Recreation Therapist at the Salt Lake City VA.  Like every other participant, instructor and staff member of WAS my journey in life has been full of triumphs and tragedies, accomplishments and disappointments, and timely miracles.  I have sought to make a living and a life as a musician, missionary, recreation therapist, assistant professor and volunteer. I’ve been blessed to work with survivors of the Holocaust, individuals with special needs, persons dealing with mental health challenges and veterans whose daily battle is addiction. The common denominator with all the amazing persons I have served is that they need and are worthy of hope, healing and harmony in their lives.

From my childhood days, I have played hard and worked hard.  My mother used to say, “Billy, you can’t play for a living, one day you will have to grow up”.   My father used to tell me “Son, you will be working a good part of your life so you’d better find a career you enjoy”.  Well I can honestly say that I have generally enjoyed my various careers but in December of 2008 when I retired from my position as an assistant professor of psychiatry at Penn State College of Medicine in Hershey, PA and headed to the Wasatch Range I found that I could actually play for a living and still work hard.

I am a believer in the value of education, prevention and early intervention in helping others obtain their optimal level of happiness and well-being.  Our physical, emotional, social, intellectual, and spiritual health are so intertwined that it is imperative that we nourish each entity. My role at the VA is to help veterans in recovery rediscover their potential and overcome their personal challenges.  Through reconnecting with their inner selves, others, nature and for many a higher power, they can lead active lives, find joy in the journey and once again contribute to the lives of family, friends and community.

The desire of every recreational therapist is to partner with programs in the community that understand the physical, social, emotional and spiritual benefits of outdoor recreation for individuals of all in need of hope, healing and harmony.  When I was introduced to the people and programs of WAS several years ago, I knew I had struck gold. It seemed too good to be true. I had to pinch myself. WAS provided the best instructors, the best equipment and the best settings and all of it available to veterans at no cost.

From downhill skiing and snowboarding at Snowbird to stand up paddle boarding and kayaking at the Jordanelle Reservoir, each veteran was provided an instructor who was passionate about their sport and who had compassion for the challenges that each veteran was facing.  Veterans who had not snowboarded since their set back and veterans who have never dreamed of skiing each enjoyed the serenity of the snow-covered mountains, the power of comradery and the joy of journeying down the slopes. In recovery, we seek to engage in activities that take place in a safe, supportive and sober environment.  Gold again – WAS has our back and we offer our sincerest gratitude to them.

It is hard to quantify the overall impact WAS has had on our female and male veterans who are seeking a sober and active life, but I know for certain that the quality of each veteran’s life who has participated in a WAS program is immensely improved.  Through offering hope (providing confidence and skills), healing (fresh air, inspiring vistas, physical exercise), and harmony (connectives with fellow Vets and the WAS family) the world at least on The Wasatch Range is a far healthier and happier place for Veterans in recovery.

On November 11th we as a nation commemorate Veterans Day as we pay our respects to those who have paid the ultimate price for our freedoms.  Come mid-December WAS will be celebrating their annual Highly Decorated Day where Veterans are able to enjoy an afternoon on the mountainside and everyone is able to make a financial contribution to keep the dream alive.  For several years I have had the opportunity to purchase holiday ornaments in honor of my father, a WWII US Navy Radioman, and my mother, an amazing RN. While they have passed on, I know for certain that my father is proud of my serving veterans and my mother is proud of my being able to play for a living and help others at the same time.  Hope, Healing and Harmony are what it is all about and I would encourage anyone who has taken the time to read my words to become a part of the WAS family by getting involved through participating, contributing and/or volunteering.