Where I Learned To Fly

Dolly Murphy lived at the bottom of her closet for a year.

Sleeping only one hour per night, her waking moments were consumed by Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from the military sexual trauma she experienced during active duty.“When you go through trauma, especially military sexual trauma, your freedom to choose is taken away and affects your everyday life because it overwhelms you,” Murphy said.

In 2015, Murphy first became involved with the National Ability Center through “Warrior Renew,” a program organized by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. While harnessing up for a ropes-course program at the NAC Ranch, Murphy’s PTSD was triggered and she had a flashback. Murphy came to understand her PTSD as a disconnect between her morals and values and the trauma she experienced.


Much of her progress and ongoing recovery is owed to her visits at the National Ability Center (NAC). In 2017, she participated in Dr. Craig Bryan’s “R&R Program” facilitated by the NAC where she withstood three other triggering experiences. Murphy is grateful for experiencing these flashbacks in a supported environment like the NAC.

“If we hadn’t been doing an in-patient program in an outpatient setting, I never would have been triggered. The doctor would not have been able to help me,” Murphy said.

This step forward was the first of many for Murphy. For six years, she never left the comforts of the bunny hill when she went skiing. However, the new year of 2018 meant new turns for Murphy. This January, she tried her first blue run during NAC Ski Week, a week of winter activities for service members and their caregivers and families. With encouragement from NAC instructor Carly Major, Murphy began to trust herself again.

“It was just like Rose on Titanic,” Murphy said. “That freedom, that openness to do what my will is, and not be afraid. I’ve been given back that freedom to make a choice for myself.”

On the day of Murphy’s blue-run achievement, NAC partner Dominion Energy presented a check for $50,000 that will go towards Military Health and Wellness Programs like those Murphy has participated in.

“If it wasn’t for donations from groups like Dominion and Vail EpicPromise, there’s people like me that would be lost,” Murphy said. “Without NAC, there is no guarantee that I would be alive today.”

Murphy skiing at Park City Mountain Resort during NAC Ski Week 2018.

Murphy hopes to take more individual lessons at the NAC in the future, especially our Nordic skiing programs.

“If it weren’t for these programs, I probably wouldn’t have seen the light at the end of the tunnel and I probably would have given up,” Murphy said.

“NAC has given me a place to have the security and safety to heal,” Murphy said.

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