A group from the Fort Bliss Soldier Recovery Unit (SRU) in Texas crossed the border into New Mexico to explore a ghost town this summer. (Photo via Mark Gaddy)
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – A group from the Fort Bliss Soldier Recovery Unit (SRU) in Texas crossed the border into New Mexico to explore a ghost town this summer. (Photo via Mark Gaddy) (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
A group from the Fort Bliss Soldier Recovery Unit (SRU) in Texas crossed the border into New Mexico to explore a ghost town this summer. (Photo via Mark Gaddy)
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – A group from the Fort Bliss Soldier Recovery Unit (SRU) in Texas crossed the border into New Mexico to explore a ghost town this summer. (Photo via Mark Gaddy) (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

ARLINGTON, Va. — When you're on the road to recovery, it's good to explore the world around you with your fellow Soldiers. Members of the Fort Bliss Soldier Recovery Unit (SRU) in Texas did exactly that this summer when they made a special trip across the border to New Mexico to check out a silver mining ghost town — and it was a one-of-a-kind experience.

The SRU tries to arrange these trips a couple times per year, but COVID-19 restrictions had made that difficult the past year, so the Soldiers were grateful for the opportunity in July to take a trip back in time to Chloride, N.M. About 20 SRU members made the 150-mile journey to the ghost town as part of the event.

Chloride was founded back in the late 1800s — the height of the Wild West era — as a mining community after silver was discovered along the streambanks. At its peak, it had more than 1,000 residents and a bustling town filled with general stores, butcher shops and saloons. But then the country went on the gold standard leading to the Panic of 1893, sending silver prices plummeting. The town has since been restored as a historical destination with a museum.

"It became a ghost town overnight," said Mark Gaddy, occupational therapy assistant at the SRU and the coordinator of the trips. "It's a great tour and the people are really friendly, and they give you a background and history of the town."

Gaddy says these are good opportunities for Soldiers because it allows them to explore new places and learn about the American West. Sometimes, they'll make it a double feature and also go to a nearby park or special destinations like petroglyphs or lava beds.

The Army doesn’t want recovering Soldiers to feel confined to their barracks during the recovery process, so it's important for the SRU to arrange outings like this — particularly as COVID-19 makes gatherings all the more difficult, Gaddy said.

"They get to meet people — maybe it's someone who lives across the hall but they never spoke to," he said. "It helps them socialize, and it also helps them look at their life in a different light."

He added that they were already about to embark on their next trip in early October. They'll be headed to a ranger lookout station that is about 10,000 feet up in order to get a great view of the autumn colors before visiting the historical town of Capitan, N.M. Capitan is the home of the real life Smokey Bear, a black bear cub that was rescued from a forest fire in the Capitan Mountains in 1950. There's a museum for kids there, which makes it a good family outing for the Soldiers.

Many Soldiers are also interested in starting small businesses, and these trips to resort areas often provide good opportunities to interact with local business owners and gain some expertise. Mostly, however, it's an opportunity to provide respite to Soldiers undergoing the hard work of recovery.

"We just want people to relax," Gaddy said.

The Army Warrior Care and Transition Program is now the Army Recovery Care Program. Although the name has changed, the mission remains the same: to provide quality complex case management to the Army's wounded, ill and injured Soldiers.