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Lone Cone Mountain in early spring, before the snow runoff. A rare day of azure at "The Cone." Usually the sky is a washed out, pale blue. Local ranch owners Ron and Ruby Clements are offering a free vacation to servicemembers returning from Iraq.
Lone Cone Mountain in early spring, before the snow runoff. A rare day of azure at "The Cone." Usually the sky is a washed out, pale blue. Local ranch owners Ron and Ruby Clements are offering a free vacation to servicemembers returning from Iraq. (Courtesy of Christine A.B. Odle)

If blue skies, cool winds and time to clear your head in a wild pasture sound good, then a Colorado couple may have the answer.

Ron and Ruby Clements, owners of Eagles’ Nest Recreational Ranch and Lone Cone Outfitters Inc. are offering returning veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom a “welcome home” at their ranch in southwest Colorado — free of charge.

But get your reservation done ASAP — slots are filling up, Ron Clements said.

“The phone’s ringing off [the hook,]” he said in a July 7 phone interview. “The first group comes in [July 13] — four vets and four wives. The guys are all home from Iraq.”

The couple extend an invitation to veterans of the Iraq conflict to spend six nights and five days as guests at the ranch through November, except for July 21 through Aug. 25, during which Clements has a prior commitement.

The invitation is for groups of up to 10 veterans and their spouses or significant others. Reservations will be made on a first-come, first-served basis.

Clements knows what it’s like to come home from war, and how important it is to feel appreciated. He’s a retired Air Force fighter pilot who flew 303 combat missions in Vietnam.

“I flew in Vietnam, and I came home to a whole bunch of [expletive], if you’ll pardon my French,” Clements said.

Clements flew F-100s out of Bien Hoa Air Base in Vietnam.

Operation “You Rolled — Thanks” originally was offered for June 10 through Aug. 20, but due to the overwhelming response and the fact that many veterans will not return until well after Aug. 20, the Clementses revised their invitation.

Lodging, meals and participation in activities such as horseback riding, trout fishing, backpacking, campfire cookouts and sightseeing in the Rocky Mountains are provided at no cost. Arrangements may be made for elk, mule deer and bear hunts from September to November.

The lodge is at 8,500 feet elevation, Clements said, and is home to “one of the biggest herds of elk in America.”

Clements estimates that it costs about $500 per couple for lodging and activities, and said he’s trying to hire a cook for the groups, which would be another $150 a day, he said.

“I’d like to be able to pay their transportation costs from all over the United States, but I can’t,” Clements said. Those interested in making a donation can go to the Web site listed below and click on “Veterans Offer.”

Reservations can be made anytime. Servicemembers need to have served overseas during the recent Iraq conflict and need a letter from his commander stating that he “served honorably overseas.”

Should a veteran want to bring additional family members or friends, arrangements and reservations may be made at a 20 percent discount of the usual rates.

— Information on Eagles’ Nest Ranch and Lone Cone Outfitters, Inc is available at: www.loneconeoutfitters.com.

— Interested veterans can contact Ron Clements at (970) 729-0749.

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