VIRGINIA CITY - Heroes and Horses is a non-profit that helps combat veterans find purpose through non-traditional ways.
The non-profit — which received a $500,000 grant from M.J Murdock Charitable Trust — is looking to build facilities for veterans at their ranch in Virginia City to be able to use year-round.
Heroes and Horses connects veterans from across the country to nature and horses during a five-week period.
They connect with themselves to learn and grow.
“Guess for a lot of veterans that I didn't think I really need,” said Army Veteran, William ‘Buzz’ Montalvo.
As Montalvo admires a horse he reflects on his time in the US Army and everything that it prepared him for.
After leaving the Army, asking for help is one of those things he was unprepared for.
“You kind of just suck things up and bite your tongue and do what you're asked and perform out here. You know, they kind of teach you to kind of open up,” said Montalvo.
So, his fellow veterans from Ennis recommended he try Heroes and Horses.
“Heroes and Horses is a very intensive 41-day program,” said Heroes and Horses CFO Mark Davis.
Mark Davis, a Marine Veteran, was on a path to find purpose in life while working in the corporate world.
He now helps other veterans do the same, "these guys discover their own inner strength and the main purpose, and they have."
For five weeks he sees a change in these veterans.
“I will pick up the guys when we first land at the airport. When we’re in driving down here and these guys are talking with each other, asking what unit really what branch of the service and it's all kind of about the military. But by the time they go through this program that's in the past, and that's what we're doing right now. They're talking about the future what they're going to do, what they've learned what things love,” said Davis
Shane Wilson, known as ‘Cope’ to his friends, went through the program together with Buzz.
Wilson joined the military on 9/11 where he spent 19 years and 14 years in Special Operations. He struggled with PTSD, anxiety, and depression.
“I joined so young, and it was really all I wanted to do. My whole life was, you know, be a soldier. And then when that had come to a kind of abrupt end, I really hadn't faced much of my definition of who I was and what I did for a living,” said Wilson.
He says it was Heroes and Horses that finally worked to help him work with his emotions.
“You can't lie to your mustang, and you can’t lie to your mule, mountains don't care if you lie. You must be honest with all of it. They will keep you honest.
‘Cope’ says the biggest lesson he learned after the 41 days was, "what I refer to as emotional literacy, and how to really reconnect with myself and connect, my family reconnected."
Both ‘Cope’ and ‘Buzz’ say this helped them grow as individuals and as a group.
“This is different, we weren’t going into combat. It was just we wanted you to get better, we want this man to get better,” said Montalvo.
“I think I'm most proud of this one because it was so much more in access to parts of me that kind of were left untapped during my time that was in the military,” said Wilson.