Strengthening Family Support By John Roberts – National Service Director, Wounded Warrior Project It can be a difficult chore for any veteran to transition from the battlefront to the home front. When a military service member is injured, it can place stress on their family members, all of whom are integral and loving components of a warrior’s successful mental and physical recovery. Compounding the issue is the significant time many wounded warriors have spent away from their children, which can strain their relationships. April is the Month of the Military Child. It’s a time to recognize the children of our Armed Forces heroes because they too make sacrifices and must overcome many challenges. Warriors’ kids, depending on their ages, may not fully understand the situation, but they can sense there’s something very different about their mom or dad. Loved ones, especially children, need to be assured things will get better. Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) can help with that through family-oriented events. Reinforcing the Warrior and Child Connection Marine Corps veteran and wounded warrior Bradley Thomas sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in 2011 and took the struggles of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) into his civilian life.
“In the darkest moments of my life, my children were the only light I had. The only thing I could see in the distance, that one speckle of light, were my children. Each day, I get closer and closer to that light,” - Bradley said. Bradley’s young children motivated their father to find help for his physical and emotional wounds through WWP. In the process, Brandon’s son, Landon, said he got his father back. “Most of the time it was hard,” Landon said. “I liked having him home at first, but he was always in pain and not happy. It made me sad for him. Now he’s happy.” WWP family connection events are a chance for kids and parents to get away from everyday life and do things at their own pace while relaxing, reconnecting, and enriching relationships.
HOMELAND / April 2018
While many WWP family events are outdoorsy, it’s nice to see a tough veteran sitting in a small chair at a princess party and drinking pretend tea with his or her son or daughter, with pinky finger properly raised. Priceless. “Our daughter was over the moon about going to a princess party,” said Jamie Pryde, whose husband, Forrest, is an Army veteran. “And we were happy to be part of something that lets Wounded Warrior Project families spend time together.” “Forrest wasn’t sure about going to the party at first because he didn’t think it was something for him, but we are so glad he did,” Jamie said. “We’ve had amazing family experiences with the organization.” Like Forrest, other warrior dads are learning more about themselves and their children. Army Reserve veteran Steven Olsen and his family attended a WWP connection event that sparked his children’s minds at the Science Center of Iowa. “I learned my kids are way smarter than me. I would ask them a question about something I read, and they already knew the answer.” “My kids loved going to the Science Center, and we felt like VIPs,” Steven said. “We had a great time hanging out with our kids and other Wounded Warrior Project families.” National Guard veteran Daniel Bittner attended the same event and found its value for his recovery. He realized that not only were his kids and wife entertained – he was with those he loved in a safe environment, and it allowed him to relax, enjoy the moment, and not feel the anxiety that often comes with going out in public. “Through Wounded Warrior Project events, we have been able to spend quality time together and create lifelong memories with the kids, and even meet new friends with similar life experiences,” said Daniel’s wife, Sonya. “I never would have thought this hidden gem of a museum would make me and my kids so happy,” said Army veteran Joe Lawyer. “There was so much to do, and having the place to ourselves allowed me to feel comfortable. I haven’t been this happy in a long time.” Joe’s wife, Tiffany, considers Wounded Warrior Project to be a family filled with deserving people who are able to experience events they sometimes wouldn’t be able to afford or attend.