Terry McLaughlin: Wounded Warrior Project supports veterans, families | TheUnion.com

Terry McLaughlin: Wounded Warrior Project supports veterans, families

Terry McLaughlin
Columnist

As I boarded a flight home from Washington D.C. in September, I couldn't help noticing two quite elderly men wearing ball caps identifying them as veterans.

I smiled at them as I preceded to my assigned seat at the rear of the plane, where I exchanged greetings with a mother and young son sitting in my row as we fumbled with our seatbelts and carry-on bags.

After the flight crew completed their obligatory safety talk and we were settled into our seats as comfortably as it is possible to be in a coach seat on an American Airlines flight, we overheard a gentleman behind us speaking quietly to the flight attendant. He was instructing her to please deliver to the two elderly veterans sitting in the front of the plane the beverages of their choice, for which he would pay. My seatmate and I looked at each other with big grins on both our faces, delighted to witness this expression of honor and respect for our veterans.

And I thus became engaged in one of the most interesting airplane conversations of my life.

My seatmate, Kate, and I discovered that we were both part of the "sisterhood" of military moms, with children on active, inactive and reserve duty. In an emotional conversation, she shared with me how her eldest son, a U.S. Marine, had been critically injured while in the Middle East. He had lost part of each finger on his right hand. Skilled military doctors miraculously reconstructed his thumb in a long, tedious process, using skin grafts from his own body. Kate shared photos of her son's injuries on the battlefield, at the hospital and now in recovery. Her second son was currently at boot camp, undeterred by his brother's injuries, and determined to honor him by becoming an outstanding Marine.

When her son was initially injured, Kate said she was receiving calls from "everyone" — the Marine Corps, government officials and many others in an overwhelming effort to offer aid and support. With an outpouring of gratitude, Kate spoke repeatedly about the Wounded Warrior Project, which provided both emotional and financial support for travel, housing and other necessities while attending to her injured son for weeks on end in a place far from home. She believes that their services and support were of the utmost value and importance for herself, her family and most importantly, her injured Marine.

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The Wounded Warrior Project was created to serve veterans and service members who have incurred a physical or mental injury, illness or wound, co-incident to their military service on or after Sept. 11, 2001, and their families. For the Wounded Warriors Project, there are no dues or costs for these services — those are considered paid on the battlefield, and by wearing the uniform. Their mission is to honor and empower wounded warriors "with a vision to foster the most successful, well-adjusted generation of wounded service members in our nation's history."

With advancements in medicine and body armor, more and more service members are surviving severe injuries, increasing the need for long-term support. For every U.S. soldier killed in World Wars I and II, 1.7 soldiers were wounded. For every U.S. soldier killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, seven are wounded. Over 48,000 servicemen and women have been physically injured in the recent military conflicts.

According to the Wounded Warrior Project, in addition to physical wounds, it is estimated that as many as 400,000 service members live with the invisible wounds of war which can include combat-related stress, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Another 320,000 are believed to have experienced a traumatic brain injury during deployment.

The Wounded Warrior Project provides free programs and services to address the needs of these wounded warriors and fill gaps in government care. The demand for programs and services has grown from serving just a handful of injured veterans to now serving tens of thousands. As of September, 106,000 servicemen and women and over 25,000 family members have received assistance, and the organization continues to receive hundreds of new registrations from injured veterans, their families and caregivers each month.

The project ensures that our wounded warriors and their families know that they are not alone in their journey to recovery. Among the many things they provide are mental health support, health and wellness programs, career and VA benefits counseling, and family support. All of these programs are financed by private donations. Donors can feel confident that their contributions are being used wisely in pursuit of the intended mission of the Wounded Warrior Project. In January of this year, the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance renewed accreditation of the Wounded Warrior Project as "meeting the 20 standards for charity accountability," finding "the organization's spending to be consistent with its programs and missions." In February, Charity Navigator ranked the project with four out of four stars, and awarded an accountability and transparency rating of 96.0.

If you are moved to support our wounded veterans, like Kate's son, through this valuable organization, contributions may be sent to Wounded Warrior Project at P.O. Box 758517, Topeka, Kansas 66675-8517.

Terry McLaughlin, who lives in Nevada City, writes a twice monthly column for The Union. Write to her at terrymclaughlin2016@gmail.com.