By Karen Briggs
A caravan of wounded military veterans and their families ventured out to the Arizona desert in the spring to learn the fine art of gold prospecting.
The Gold Prospectors Association of Phoenix, a local chapter of the Gold Prospectors Association of America, hosted the April 9 outing in conjunction with the Wounded Warrior Project.
Forty five wounded warriors and 46 Phoenix Chapter mentors and volunteers headed out to the GPAP’s Dumb Luck mining claim in an impressive convoy of trucks and Jeeps for Wounded Warrior Mentoring Day.
At the claim, near Morristown, Ariz., the WWP families were shown how to read the terrain, metal detect, dig responsibly, test pan for gold, and run a drywasher. Outing participants hauled dirt brought back to the staging area, where families were taught how to run several more pieces of small-scale gold mining equipment, including the club’s Gold Well Recirculating Sluice, a Gold Cube and the club’s Keene drywasher.
Chapter members Woody Wampler and Ian Joe also brought their supersized Gold Well, while Dennis Mattern shared his spiral gold wheel for cleaning out the black sand.
Mike Lozano, a wounded warrior, worked who is now a GPAP member helped organize the event. Lozano and his family were introduced to the Phoenix chapter and gold prospecting by member Lance Beaton last year.
“At my first meeting, I was surprised to see the large number of military veterans and military supporters in the GPAP organization. I was invited to go on a campout to learn how to prospect. I was a little hesitant at first, but my first outing with the GPAP was quite a positive experience.”
Lozano said that the chapter members shared their knowledge and helped in every way they could.
“I didn’t know what I was doing at first,” he said. “After about an hour of prospecting and panning under the instruction of some of the members, I actually found my first gold. Since then, I have been on more outings with my children and have since found more gold.”
Lozano said participating in chapter outings helps him find peace of mind and combat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
“Gold prospecting helps me decompress and focus on something other than intrusive thoughts from Iraq,” Lozano said. “For me, it has been a real anxiety reducer and I believe it would be a great tool for other wounded warriors who struggle with PTSD. The support from GPAP members and fellow veterans on outings help to create a calming environment.”
He appreciates the time and effort GPAP chapter members have taken to teach newcomers how to prospect and likes to mingle with other vets.
“The GPAP is very family oriented and upholds good conservational ethics and values, and the Wounded Warrior Project is a supportive network of fellow veterans who share common ground and can count on each other when they need support,” Lozano said.
A highlight of the outing was when Afghanistan veteran and GPAP member John Rozsi, was reunited with fellow veteran, John Shimkus. The two men had not seen each other since 2002, when they last served together.
Following a picnic lunch, all of the Wounded Warrior Project families went home with GPAA gold pans, scoops, vials, bags of GPAP paydirt, chapter T-shirts, and big smiles.
Chapter President Randy Briggs said the outing was a success and that he would like to see Wounded Warrior Mentoring Day become an annual chapter event.
Briggs thanked GPAP Events Coordinator Leo Martin, chapter member David Mahoney and all mentors who helped to make the event possible.
Karen Briggs is the Vice President of the Gold Prospectors Association of Phoenix, a local chapter of the Gold Prospectors Association of America. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Gold Prospectors Association of Phoenix
For more information about the Gold Prospectors Association of Phoenix or to join the local GPAA chapter go to www.gpaaphoenix.com, or call GPAP President Randy Briggs at (815) 585-1096, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Article as featured in the August-September 2016 issue of the Pick & Shovel Gazette.