Justin Elias, Staff Sergeant, United States Marine Corps (Retired)
The day that I met LtCol Rick Wolf, I was terrified of him. I was being transferred into the Wounded Warrior Detachment at 29 Palms California, of which LtCol Wolf was the officer in charge, suffering from PTSD. One of my worst symptoms was the fear and mistrust in anyone with authority over me. This now included Rick Wolf. Over the next year, Rick very worked hard to gain my trust. He would bring me into his office to talk whenever he had the chance, but especially when he noticed that I was having trouble adjusting to something new. Unlike most other counseling sessions that I had received during the previous few years, which were more like a check in the box than an actual attempt to know me, I could see that Rick genuinely cared. More than that though, he made sure that I knew he was a Christian and that is command style would be based around that of a Christian leader. In the year that I was under Rick’s command, he lived up to his commitment. He was not a leader who ruled with an iron fist, nor one that showed hypocrisy. Instead, he was a servant to those of us in the unit, both patients and staff. He put our needs above his own in an attempt to help us regain the physical and mental capabilities that we had lost. One of the programs that Rick put together was the idea that wilderness trips would help the healing process. At first, this sounded horrible to most of us in the Wounded Warrior unit. Camping, from a military perspective is never fun. If the choice had been left up to us, the trips would never have happened. But Rick did not give in, and his enthusiasm for the idea began to become infectious. For the first time in years, I actually began to look forward to something involving the outdoors. There is something about being among nature, in a place where you can actually see the stars. One finds it difficult to look up into the vastness of the universe, infinitely complex, and believe that we are an accident. Many of us came to realize that what we were going through at that moment was not the sum of our lives. Instead, we were given perspective and shown that while what we were going through was horrible, there was more to the world than our tiny, selfish corner. The experiences that I had under Rick Wolf’s leadership changed my life. When we met, I was a broken man who could not see outside of my self-centered existence. Through Rick’s Christ centered counseling, and his focus on outdoor experiences, I finally began the healing process. Now my family and I live in Bozeman, Montana where both my wife and I attend Montana State University. We also take advantage of the great outdoor opportunities that exist here and take our two children hiking, camping or fishing as much as we can. I owe much of my healing to the work and influence of LtCol Rick Wolf.