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Robert Winner, USAF (Ret) – Zilis-Sacred Mountain Retreat Center AAR

Sometimes you don’t know what you need until it’s presented to you…
Robert Winner, USAF (Ret)

Back in June I was invited to spend time with fellow Military, Veterans and First Responders at the Zilis-Sacred Mountain Retreat Center (Z-SMRC) in Deadwood South Dakota. I can honestly say this proved to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. 


For years I’ve had a really good handle on my demons, both the good and bad ones. Enough so that others sought out my counsel in dealing with their own chaos.  Well, this weekend at Z-SMRC was a pinnacle moment for me. 


I spent time with, shared stories, laughed and cried with x8 amazing heroes.  I watched strangers from different backgrounds with different stories and different scars come together to become friends and inevitably become a new family.  Over the course of the retreat: Combat Vets laughed and cried about the excitement and chaos or war, LEOs laughed and cried about the dregs of society and EMS personnel laughed and cried about the whims of fate and the evil of the human spirit.  Our group of x4 women and x4 men included: retired Dallas cop, retired USAF cop, an Army Trauma Nurse, an Army Infantryman, an Army Engineer, EMTs and a Fire Fighter/ Paramedic. We had a broad spectrum in our class which although from different paths had very similar scars of service.


The weight of the world is that of demons left unchecked and unsupervised.  Through our peer-to-peer support and teamwork everyone walked away a week later stronger and wiser and more capable of quelling the noise.

There are good and bad to every story, but this story ends with strangers building bonds that transcend friendship and created a lasting family.  Different clans coming together as one tribe, a tribe of amazing people who believe in a higher calling, service before self and a dedication to this country that runs deeper than blood.


Enough good cannot be said for the amazing work that Jerrid Geving and Emily Kruger have done in putting together the Zilis-Sacred Mountain Retreat Center and this program. 
Hands on work to build up a team, Equine therapy because horses heal souls, blacksmithing knives from RR nails, Leather working to make sheaths, Yoga, group trips, etc. 

The ebb and flow of the Z-SMRC was spot on perfect and the cast/ crew was amazing. We had some pretty great folks pass through while we were on deck, fellow graduates of the program, supporters who brought their craft and trade with them for us to experience and a Gold Star family stopping by to say hello.


To be honest I feel humbled and honored to have been a part of it.  The transformation of folks involved was truly phenomenal.  In a case or two we literally helped each other snatch a soul back from the edge.

I’ll be returning to the Black Hills to help as often as I’m invited because I believe in their mission and goals 110%.  The beauty of the Zilis-Sacred Mountain Retreat Center is that it is a No Cost program for the attendees.  Airfare (or gas reimbursement), lodging, food, activities… all covered by the Z-SMRC program.

Not all wounds can be healed, not all the screams can be silenced and yet it is the helping hands of family, friends and strangers that help guide the path forward through the darkness of uncertainty.  Not all demons can be snuffed out but it is possible to control the demons and turn down the volume on the chaos. Contact the Zilis-Sacred Mountain Retreat Center if you, a loved one or a coworker/ friend are in need of these services.

If you have questions or wish to recommend someone to attend the program, please reach out to Emily: SACREDMTN18@GMAIL.COM or Rob: ROBERT.WINNER.ZSMRC@GMAIL.COM


4 Responses to “Robert Winner, USAF (Ret) – Zilis-Sacred Mountain Retreat Center AAR”

  1. Shteve-Oh! says:

    Wow sounds like a really powerful experience! Thank you for sharing. Do you know more about the $ side of it, i.e. how is it funded? Happy Saturday,

  2. Rob Winner says:

    It’s funded through corporate and private donations as well as a number of fundraisers held throughout the year.
    Feel free to email me my listed address.

  3. Josh says:

    Good stuff Rob,but did ya break anything while ya were there? haha I know how ya roll.