Almost 42,000 soldiers have been injured in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.
The Wounded Warriors Project, a non-profit organization, has made it their mission to honor our American heroes. With their help this weekend, a group of veterans got the ride of a lifetime, with some of the U.P.'s favorite winter athletes.
Veteran B.J. Ganem never thought sled dog mushing was something he'd be able to do.
"I was in an IED, a roadside bomb explosion, Thanksgiving night, 2004," said Ganem. "It killed my gunner, injured myself and two other Marines."
Doctors were forced to amputate Ganem's left leg, and he also suffered a traumatic brain injury.
This weekend he's in McMillan with a group of six other Army and Marine soldiers with similar experiences, bonding over an age-old Upper Peninsula sport that he says the Wounded Warriors Project has given him the confidence to do.
It's the second year The Wounded Warriors Project and Nature's Kennel have teamed up. They say this activity is a perfect fit for the heroes because it's a physical sport and the remote, peaceful environment forms a strong bond, not only to their dog teams, but the other soldiers...something that isn't always easy to come by.
"No one can go to a war zone and come back the same, and it's really hard to relate to other people that haven't been there," Ganem said.
Saturday morning they hit the trails. They stayed the night at camp near the kennel.
"This shows them there are other guys out there that have gone through similar situations, some of the same things; you're not alone," said Andrew Music of Warrior Outreach for the Chicago Wounded Warriors office.
Ganem says it's a weekend of healing before returning to the daily grind, and now he's got a new set of aspirations: compete in a dog sled race after his kids get a little older.
The Wounded Warrior Project is solely funded by donations. For more information about the program, click here.