While watching fall colors change please give a thought and save a moment of prayer for Zach Thomas after what he describes as the bareback ride that represented a "turning leaf" of his college rodeo career last weekend at the Central Rocky Mountain Region event in Riverton. In other words he got past being green, felt the power, and was in total touch with his horse's bucking stroke for stroke. The 25-year-old Casper College cowboy from Albuquerque is a U.S. Army combat veteran and only took up bareback riding following his time in military service . As a Cavalry Scout (19D), Thomas was part of a 20-man platoon in Afghanistan that was sent on many reconnaissance missions one of which inserted them via Black Hawk Helicopter into the middle of a Taliban training grounds at four in the morning. "They flew us out and left us there in the middle of nowhere. It was pretty exhilarating." Thomas also volunteered as a tunnel rat in Afghanistan. "I got to dive down in a couple of dark holes to see what was in there which was really cool," he recalls. At rodeos you could see Thomas improving every week last year and his entering of several summer rodeos showed results this fall. But then came Saturday. The horse flipped over on Zach causing major damage to the left side including a pelvis break that severed his urethra and five or six broken ribs. Following two hours of surgery on Monday the medical team at Swedish Medical Center in Denver said it could not have gone any better. Thomas is back in Casper now, on the mend and in a lot of pain, with hopes of being able to ride again at the last couple of spring rodeos in April to complete his college rodeo career. More surgery is required but if anyone can make it back, it's Zach Thomas. After all, much like his Army platoon mates Zach's newfound rodeo family will stand alongside with loving support for a lifetime.