Our Team at Huts for Vets,
Paul Andersen, HFV Founder and Executive Director, is a journalist, book author, historian and wilderness guide. He has been a professional writer for 40 years and has written fifteen books, hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles, and dozens of television and film scripts. Born in Chicago, he migrated to the Colorado Rockies for skiing, with college in Gunnison as a secondary pursuit that eventually resulted in a bachelor’s degree. Starting in 1977, Paul reported for the Gunnison Country Times and the Crested Butte Chronicle. He again migrated, this time over the Elk Range in 1984 for a reporter/editor role at the Aspen Times where he has written a weekly column for over 30 years. Paul has led multi-day seminar programs at the 10th Mountain Huts on nature and society for the Aspen Institute and serves as its chief nature and culture guide. He also ran wilderness seminars for the Colorado Mountain Club. He founded Huts For Vets in January 2013 and attends every trip.
Dick “the Colonel” Merritt
USMC Veteran, Founding Board Member
Lt. Col Dick Merritt, U.S. Marine Corps (Ret), was born in Seattle, Washington on 29 June 1935 and grew up in the foothills below 14,410 foot Mount Rainier. In the summer of 1954, he summited Mount Rainier with Guide Jim Whittaker, the first American to climb Mount Everest. During WW II years 1941-1943, he got to meet military personnel training on Mount Rainier, including 10th Mountain Division troops. After becoming an Eagle Scout in 1952, he entered the University of Washington in the fall of 1953 on a Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps Scholarship and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant USMC in June 1957. LtCol Merritt is a combat veteran, who served in Vietnam in 1966-67. Then a Captain as an Infantry Company Commander, he participated in Operation Hastings along the DMZ, one of the biggest and bloody battles in Vietnam. He served with the 3rd Battalion,5th Marines, the most highly decorated Battalion in the Marine Corps. Their motto “Get Some” became one of the rally cries for the war. Upon conclusion of Hastings, he was awarded the Vietnam Cross of Gallantry with Bronze Star. After his career of service Col. Merritt moved to Aspen in 1979. He then taught skiing and served on the Aspen Highlands Ski Patrol, retiring in 2015. He also served twelve years as Risk Manager at Roaring Fork Club, Basalt, Colorado. He is a strong advocate for veterans, coordinating many veteran events in the Roaring Fork Valley, including his role as founding board member with Huts For Vets. Semper Fi!
Dan “Danno” Glidden
Navy Veteran, Founding Board Member
Dan’s family came to Aspen from Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1946. Dan spent his childhood years in Aspen, when it was a small town. His high school graduating in 1960 totaled thirteen. From 1960-‘62, Dan was enrolled at Colorado State University, where the student body was 22,000. Overwhelmed, Dan and, in 1962, answered President John F. Kennedy’s call to “ask what you can do for your country.” Hoping to help less fortunate people in the world, Dan was invited into the 1963 Peru Community Development Program, part of the Peace Corps. In June 1965, Dan was drafted, causing him to join the US Navy where he served in the “brown water navy” on gunboats in the Mekong Delta as an ambassador of sorts assigned to cultivate healthy relations with the South Vietnamese. Dan was honorably discharged in 1972, returned to Aspen, and drove delivery trucks for Rio Grande Motorway until 1980. From 1980-’90, he worked for the Aspen Skiing Company at Snowmass as a “lifty,” then from 1990-2017, he worked for the Aspen Police Department as a street cop and wildlife enforcement officer. Dan is a founding board member of Huts For Vets.
President of the Board, Vietnam Veteran, USMC Veteran
Don Stuber believed he could fly. Given his background in aviation, his Marine Corps recruiter seemed to agree. Don soon found himself in the air. Not in the cockpit, but in the air; a Marine Infantryman, jumping out of the open doors and ramps of perfectly good aircraft and landing, with luck, boots first on a hot L.Z. or forlorn O.P. during the opening salvos of Vietnam’s 1968 Tet Offensive. Later, Don attended the University of Minnesota studying Studio Art and South Asian Studies. In 1975, on walk-about, tracing the spine of the Rocky Mountains north to south, Don stumbled into the Roaring Fork Valley and found, among the hills, streams, and wilderness, a community that felt like home. A recovering adrenaline junky, Don has worked as an artist, photojournalist, furniture maker and building contractor and volunteers with arts and veterans organizations. Don looks forward to his time spent with fellow veterans and welcomes the opportunity to share stories and solace among returning brother and sister warriors.
Ryan Gentry is an Operation Iraqi Freedom II veteran having served in Iraq from December 2003 to February 2005 as a Signal Systems Specialist for the 216th Engineer Battalion, Headquarters Company (Combat Heavy) attached to the U.S. Army’s First Infantry Division, while deployed in Iraq. Ryan is a current graduate student at the University of Colorado School of Public Affairs pursuing a dual Master’s Degree, Master’s of Public Administration (MPA), specializing in Policy Advisory and a Master’s in Geospatial Information Systems (MA GIS). Ryan has lived in the Roaring Fork Valley for seven years and has served on the Huts For Vets Board of Directors for four and a half years. He is currently employed in the Pitkin County Assessor’s office and serves as the Treasurer at Huts For Vets.
A 12-year Air Force veteran, Stephen Otero is motivated by the insights gained after moving to Crested Butte, Colorado in 2015, following his own struggles during his transition into civilian life. He sees the natural beauty and recreational opportunities that surround the Colorado mountains as a gateway for better prepared and rehabilitated veterans. Steve shares a vision for U.S. soldiers in guided meditation and yoga during the second phase of their initial military training, and he endorses nature immersion for further recovery. Underlying this vision is the question: How do nature and the mindfulness found in nature affect the brain’s healing and rehabilitation of our wounded warriors? Otero, a Crested Butte local and soon-to-be graduate at Western State Colorado University, is researching his theory that having veterans experience nature and alternative focusing methods will help them recover from service and transition back into civilian life. Steve joined the board in October 2020.
Alec is a current Marine Corps Reservist who spent 8 years on active duty serving in a variety of roles within conventional forces, Special Operations, and the Intelligence Community. He deployed to Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Africa supporting combat operations and counter nation-state operations. It was the wild ride he was looking for, but all chapters must come to an end. Alec and his wife left active duty to move to the Roaring Fork Valley and raise their two young sons in a close-knit mountain community close to wilderness. He now works with a cybersecurity startup serving in a Product leadership role trying to protect American companies from cybercriminals. Alec’s life now revolves around growing his family, serving his local and veteran communities, and finding any excuse to get into the backcountry to ski and hunt.
Hut Master, Wilderness Guide
Tait Andersen, Hut Master, and Base Camp Manager was born in Aspen and raised in these mountains. Regardless of how far he’s wandered, these mountains have always been home. He is excited to be able to share his love of these incredible places with veterans. He holds a Bachelor’s degree from Prescott College, with a minor in Adventure Education. His master’s degree is in Environmental Governance from the Norwegian University of Life Sciences.
Program Director, Army Veteran, Board Member
Erik is an Army veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now a husband and father of two, he serves as the Program Director for Huts For Vets. He takes ownership of the Huts For Vets mission in shaping the organization to best serve his fellow veterans and honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. Erik is an avid mountain biker, serving as President of RAMBO (Rifle Area Mountain Bike Organization.) He enjoys hiking, trail building, hunting, and literature.
Wilderness Guide, Qui Gong Instructor, Organic Farmer
Jake Sakson, Hut Master, Qui Gong Instructor, Organic Farmer and Wilderness Guide, grew up in Carbondale, Colorado where he graduated from Colorado Rocky Mountain School and developed a strong affinity for mountain sports and natural environments. This background led Jake to teaching at a professional kayak academy in Chile and becoming one of the nation’s top “Big Mountain” telemark ski competitors. He has spent five years studying Qigong and Tai Chi, and he is a certified Wilderness First Responder.
Health and Fitness Coordinator, USMC Veteran
Chris Joyce is a Marine Corps veteran, serving in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. He is a functional medicine health coach focusing on having veterans take control of their health with a holistic approach. His mission is to prepare future participants physically and mentally for their trip and motivates them to continue the positive momentum post-trip. Chris is a Huts For Vets alumni, staff, and board member.
Justin Lincoln, Psy.D, RYT, Staff Psychologist, is a licensed clinical psychologist. He is currently working with the Family Care Center in Colorado Springs, providing behavioral health services to veterans and military families. Though he is a civilian psychologist, several of Dr. Lincoln’s family members are veterans or active duty service members. While practicing some traditional psychotherapy, he also recognizes the power offered by experiential modalities of treatment. He believes strongly that experiences such as those offered by “Huts for Vets” can facilitate significant transformations.
Dr. Erin Wilkinson
Licensed Psychologist, Army Veteran, Board Member
Dr. Erin Wilkinson, Clinical Psychologist, is the Regional Mental Health Officer for the Peace Corps Africa Region currently based in South Africa. Erin retired from the Army after 20 years as a Clinical Psychologist. She has held multiple positions in her military career and multiple deployments. As the Commander of the only Combat Stress Control Detachment for Europe, she deployed to Kosovo, Albania, Macedonia and NATO’s Partnership for Peace program in Slovakia. After the bombing of the US Embassy in Nairobi, Dr. Wilkinson led a Rapid Response Team to provide humanitarian support through mental health services to the host nationals as well as US Embassy and military personnel. She later deployed to Iraq where she worked to repatriate female and adolescent detainees and provide behavioral health services to service members. Upon retiring out of Ft. Carson, Colorado Springs, she worked for Veteran’s Homeless programs, a Traumatic Brain Injury program and other veteran-serving positions. Erin has devoted her time to Huts for Vets for the past 5 years as a board member and co-moderator. She is currently continuing to serve those who serve others through the Peace Corps and covers thirteen countries in Africa. Erin enjoys trail riding (horse), dancing, hiking with her two Aussies, skiing, reading, camping and exploring and experiencing new cultures, people and places. She currently lives in Cape Town, South Africa.
Women’s Trip Leader, USAF Veteran
Jen Patronas retired from the Air Force in 2019 after serving for 20 years. She was a medic and later became a technical training master instructor for the Community College of the Air Force and a military training instructor (a.k.a. ‘drill sergeant’) for basic military training. Upon retiring from the USAF, Jen developed a passion for providing support to families in under-served communities. Currently, she serves as the CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs-Alaska.
In 2019, Jen was looking for ways to connect to other female veterans when she discovered Hut for Vets. She believes the trip allowed her space to reconnect with nature and other women with similar experiences.
“In Aspen, I learned that shared suffering leads to unbreakable connections. We all found a secret joy and sense of pride that we were in this together.”, Jen reminisces. She wants to help others find healing through nature and human connection. In her free time, Jen enjoys camping, hiking, fishing, duck hunting, and reading. She resides in Eagle River, Alaska with her husband and 3 children.