Area center to help wounded warriors

Posted: April 12, 2013

The Winchester Star

Ken Falke (second from right), founder and chairman of the board at Boulder Crest Retreat for Wounded Warriors, talks to members of the Winchester Rotary Club about the facility on the porch of one of the cabins under construction. With him are (from left)
Workers install the gateway entrance ot the Boulder Crest Retreat for Wounded Warriors in Bluemont.
Pictured is one of the cabins under construction at the Boulder Crest Retreat for Wounded Warriors.
Ken Falke, founder and chairman of the board at Boulder Crest, told Rotary members Thursday that the facility is on track to open Sept. 6.

WINCHESTER — Next month, a sip of wine and a taste of something delectable will go a long way toward helping wounded veterans of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Winchester Rotary Club has chosen Boulder Crest Retreat for Wounded Warriors as the recipient of its fourth annual International Affair fundraiser on May 17.

The event, scheduled to run from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m. at the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley, features wines from around the world — including award-winning vintners from Australia, South Africa, Argentina, France, Italy and the United States.

Six professional caterers will choose foods to complement each wine, as guests stroll through the museum listening to music.

Rotarian Richard Kent, who is co-chairing the event with Don Butler, said the fundraiser is an “elegant black-tie affair.”

And, he added, as a veteran himself and the father of a veteran, the cause couldn’t be closer to his heart.

That cause is Boulder Crest Retreat, a facility under construction on the east face of the Blue Ridge Mountain in Bluemont.

It will serve as a retreat for veterans undergoing treatment and rehabilitation at Walter Reed Army Hospital in Bethesda, and for their caregivers and family.

Ken Falke, founder and chairman of the board at Boulder Crest, told Rotary members Thursday that the facility is on track to open Sept. 6.

Its genesis came in 2004, when Falke — a former master chief petty officer who trained in bomb disposal — visited the first member of a bomb disposal team to be wounded in Iraq.

The young man lost both his legs.

Falke learned that the veteran’s mother could not visit him because she could not afford airfare, and he decided to pay her way.

That visit led to him visiting other wounded men and women, and he learned more about the needs of young veterans.

“I am amazed at the resilience of these young people,” he told the Rotarians Thursday during their regular meeting at the Travelodge in Winchester.

The wounded warriors, some of whom have lost one or both arms or legs from roadside bombs, may spend six to nine weeks in the hospital. But, he added, they still face one to four years as outpatients.

“It’s a long time to be in a hospital,” said Falke, who once broke his back in a parachute jump and spent three months in a hospital bed.

The idea of Boulder Crest is to offer a place where the military personnel and their family can have a respite from hospital treatment.

Boulder Crest will be such a place, offering a variety of services and activities at no cost.

Falke, who along with his wife donated the 37 acres for the facility, said about half the needed $10 million has been raised to build the center and operate it for six years.

The retreat will offer four cabins, which can each sleep six people, and a 7,000-square-foot meeting house.

Other individuals and groups are working to build a walking trail, walled garden, a fishing pond — which the Rotary’s donation will sponsor — and an organic garden with a greenhouse and apiary.

Falke said he is not seeking federal funds to support the project, because he wants to offer “nontraditional” therapies to the wounded veterans, such as transcendental meditation, therapy dogs and horseback riding.

Those sorts of things, he said, the Veterans Administration and Department of Defense won’t fund.

However, he said, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been discussing some programs that could be used at the center.

Falke told the Rotarians that he expects to devote the rest of his life to helping the more than 40,000 veterans who have sustained permanent injuries, including the 1,800 major amputees resulting from the two wars and 600,000 estimated traumatic brain injuries and sufferers of post-traumatic stress disorder.

A handout on the center notes Falke’s belief: Americans have no greater duty than to provide for those men and women who have given everything but their lives to serve and protect us.

For more information on Boulder Crest Retreat Center or to donate to the project, go to bouldercrestretreat.org.

— Contact Val Van Meter at vvanmeter@winchesterstar.com