As America prepares tomorrow (Saturday, November 11), to honor all military personnel who have served in the U.S. armed forces, we look to the difficulties vets face when they return home, with PTSD being their major battle.
To date, it is estimated that as many as 400,000 service members live with invisible wounds of war, including combat stress, depression, and finally – the signature wounds of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) – post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI). Exposure to traumatic combat and operational experiences affects service members and veterans spiritually, psychologically, biologically, and socially.
In an effort to address the growing mental health needs of warriors returning from war, Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) created its mental health support model. Through the generous support of donors, WWP is able to offer veterans a range of specialized mental health programs and services – each tailored to the veteran’s specific needs – all free of charge.
Injured veterans recently completed a five-day workshop in the San Luis Obispo, California, area. The workshop kicked off with team building exercises as warriors created individual and team goals to drive the full week of group sessions and learn-by-doing activities incorporating healthy coping skills. These gatherings are often the first time warriors leave their homes to connect with other veterans and their local communities.
“I was apprehensive at first,” said Wilfredo Rodriguez, U.S. Army veteran from Wahiawa, Hawaii who attended the workshop. “I left my comfort zone at home and it was quite a stretch. Still, I was looking forward to the future and having the necessary tools to help me get better so I trusted the process.”
Through the generous support of donors, WWP offers veterans specialized mental health programs and services – tailored to each warrior’s specific needs and free of charge. One such program is its multi-day mental health workshops that are offered as all-male, all-female, or all-couples. These workshops provide safe, private environments for warriors to express themselves and share their experiences. By the end, warriors share lessons learned from the activities that impacted their personal struggles most and set achievable goals for their recoveries.
Timothy Kincaid, a U.S. Navy veteran from the Los Angeles, California area who attended the workshop, adds: “My post-traumatic stress disorder wasn’t under control, and I was isolating and self-medicating,” said “Learning how to manage my invisible wounds with healthy coping skills and being in contact with warriors who have been through the similar situations is invaluable and will have the biggest impact in my life after this workshop.”
“This workshop can change a warrior’s life,” he says. “I thought I was the only one who had my problems and was trying to survive the invisible wounds of war, but there are veterans just like me. When you realize that you’re not alone – it will change your whole outlook on life after injury.”
WWP has its own personal message for Vets this Veterans Day: “WWP salutes the service and sacrifice of those who have dedicated their lives to our great nation. Veterans comprise a wide range of our nation’s finest, from those who protect and serve on homeland to those who deploy to ensure the realization of freedom across the globe. Together, these brave men and women fight beside each other, enduring the same battles abroad and at home after deployment.”
Below is a video from the recent mental health workshop in the San Luis Obispo:
To learn and see more about how WWP’s mental health workshops connect, serve, and empower wounded warriors, visit http://newsroom.woundedwarriorproject.org, and click on multimedia.
About Wounded Warrior Project
The mission of Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) is to honor and empower Wounded Warriors. WWP connects wounded warriors and their families to valuable resources and one another, serves them through a variety of free programs and services, and empowers them to live life on their own terms. WWP is a national, nonpartisan organization headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida. WWP is an accredited charity with the Better Business Bureau (BBB), is top rated by Charity Navigator, and holds a GuideStar Platinum rating. To get involved and learn more, visit woundedwarriorproject.
Photos courtesy of WWP