Honoring Veterans

This month, hear from 3 WAS students who are a part of the Veterans Program in honor of Veterans Day on November 11th. Sergeant Ronnie Steele, Airman Jeff Garrison, and Sergeant Daniel Rodriguez share about their experiences in the military and why recreating with WAS is an important part of their life now. WAS is grateful to each and every veteran who has served in the military and we appreciate the opportunity to work with the Salt Lake VA and veterans in this community!

Sergeant Ronnie Steele

Sergeant Ronnie Steele served in the Marine Corps for 10 years, the Army for 3, and the National Guard for 3. Throughout his time in the military, he received his surgical medical degree and a mechanical degree. He retired in 2013 after serving in California, Iraq, and Utah. 

Why did you choose to join the military?

I joined in order to be a part of the “few and the proud” and believe that if you want to become something, you should join the military!

Why is recreation, getting active, or outside important to you?

I hiked a lot during my time in the military to keep in shape and did a lot of bodybuilding. Today, because I’m in a wheelchair, I bike, camp, hunt, and fish. I’m looking into a more powerful chair in order to get around easier while I do those activities. I also am a certified SCUBA diving instructor and like to go explore at Crater Lake. 

What would you share with another veteran about WAS?

It’s an awesome program, I think Wasatch is great for anyone that has adaptive needs like myself to go out and enjoy the atmosphere and weather and the activities that WAS puts on for everyone and the help that’s provided. It’s been great! 


Airman Jeff Garrison

USAF Airman Jeff Garrison grew up in Layton, Utah, near the runway of Hill Air Force Base. He started volunteering for the Air Force in 1990 and later served for six and a half years. His career took him all over the world to places like Italy and Saudi Arabia. Jeff has been an avid volunteer at WAS’s Cycling, Skiing, and Snowshoeing Veterans Programs.

Why did you choose to join the military?

I joined the military when I was 20 years old because I had a desire to serve my country, see the world, and gain experience and finish college. The reason I chose the USAF was due to an accident that occurred in 1981 at Hill Air Force Base, in Layton Utah where USAF Thunderbird Capt. David L. (Nick) Hauck, purposefully drove his T-38 Talon into the ground, just South of the runway instead of ejecting, in order to save thousands of spectators’ lives, one of which was me. This to me showed amazing resolve and dedication to his mission and training. 

I wanted to learn to be more like the man who, while quickly rising to the very top of his widely sought after and admired career path, showed what true character and integrity takes when given a difficult situation by demonstrating absolute selflessness and dedication to the greater good in his decision making under pressure.

What would you share with another veteran about WAS?

WAS is a place to connect, reflect, focus and challenge yourself with fellow Veterans, supported by a team of educators, adventurers, and dedicated athletes that desire nothing more than to help you achieve your goals. Sometimes, it’s the first step that keeps us from discovering something new, but in time the WAS Team has become like family to me so I encourage you to at least take a look at the possibilities. They share in my success and help me through my rough patches, all without any judgment or anything short of true encouragement and support. I honestly believe that the WAS Team is a huge part of my continued success as a long term recovering USAF Veteran.


Sergeant Daniel Rodriguez

Sergeant Daniel Rodriguez served in the Marine Corps for 11 years as a Fire Chief and Drill Instructor before he was medically retired. He served at Camp Pendleton California with 1st Marine Division and as a Drill Instructor in San Diego with the 3rd Recruit Training Battalion. This year, he was introduced to WAS through his recreational therapist and met with our staff via Zoom!

Why did you choose to join the military?

I joined to find structure and a new way of life. If not you, then who? If not now, then when? Meaning, don’t wait for the opportunity to come knocking at your door because it may never come.

Why is recreation, getting active, or outside important to you?

I believe spending time doing what you enjoy doing is very important to maintain one’s sanity. It helps me to meet new people as well.

What would you share with another veteran about WAS?

WAS and the personnel are amazing! The instructors are very knowledgeable and great at teaching the fundamentals. Everything I do is at my pace and I get no pressure from the instructors. Don’t be afraid of doing new things with new people.