A Mother’s Mission
ounded Warrior Project® (WWP) staff members have many reasons for wanting to work here. Some are veterans. Some are wounded warriors. And some are mothers who have a passion fueled by experience – the experience of nearly losing their sons. Two of our many passionate, dedicated staff members are mothers of warriors who now make it their mission to serve. Cynthia Jo Parsons, a Warriors Speak team member, always credits her son, Sergeant Shane Parsons, as her inspiration to “do more with life.” Shane’s father died just six months after he was born, leaving Cynthia a widow at age 29. She had to muster all the strength she had to raise her son alone. They both made it through that difficult time, but soon after Shane joined the Army in August 2004, Cynthia’s strength would once again be severely challenged. On September 30, 2006, anti-coalition forces attacked Shane’s convoy while he was on a mission he had volunteered for in Rhamadi, Iraq. Shane suffered a severe anoxic brain injury and two cardiac arrests, and ultimately succumbed to bilateral above the knee amputations. Leslie Coleman, a member of the Communications team, remembers the day she almost lost her son Rory as if it were yesterday. Rory served as a combat medic with an Army Counter Improvised Explosive Device Platoon and was less than 30 days away from the end of his deployment. On September 12, 2011, Rory and his platoon cornered insurgent forces while clearing an underground cellar complex. An insurgent came through a doorway, sprinted towards them firing an AK-47, then deployed a grenade in a suicide attempt. The grenade detonated seven feet from Rory. His injuries were life-threatening – the shrapnel and blast ravaged nearly every part of his body. “It was at Landstuhl Medical Center in Germany that we encountered an amazing organization that would help carry us all through this journey,” said Leslie. “Wounded Warrior Project and their Warrior Outreach Coordinator Jack Shelar came to us at our most desperate hours.” Jack and the Army Liaison Officer arranged for The Coleman’s to stay at the Fisher House and brought them into the ICU to see Rory. They took them to dinner, and told them what to expect in the coming days – the military transport back to the states and what would end up being months of rehabilitation at Brooke Army Medical Center.
May 2014 / HOMELAND
“Jack sat with me in the hospital hallway as I sobbed after witnessing the effects of my son’s traumatic brain injury,” said Leslie. “It was one of the darkest moments of my life.” From the initial backpack at bedside when their sons were evacuated, through recovery, WWP was there for the warriors, and also for the moms. Their boys’ recoveries are different, as their individual injuries and needs are different, but they are united in their appreciation that WWP is there on the journey and their desire to give back. Through patience, love, and ever-growing determination, Cynthia is helping Shane through a long recovery. “He had to relearn everything,” she says. After 15 surgeries, and with her help, Shane is improving every day as he works on his speech, social skills, occupational and physical therapy, and managing the effects of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) through WWP’s Independence Program. Rory recovered from his injuries, went back to active duty and earned the rank of Sergeant. He completed his active duty as a non-commissioned officer and continues to serve his country in the Army Reserves. Now a full-time student, Rory has utilized the Warriors to Work program to find meaningful part-time work in his career path. He is getting help from the Benefits program as he works through the VA rating process and is active in the Physical Health & Wellness program, attending his first Soldier Ride this summer. As a full-time caregiver, Cynthia says she still worries about the future for her son. What happens when she can no longer provide for his care? Even in that concern, Cynthia knows WWP will be its with their Long-Term Support Trust, a $30 million commitment to care for the most severely wounded veterans for a lifetime. She now travels sharing their story to raise awareness about the needs of this generation’s wounded service members. “He’s alive, and he’s a precious gift, says Cynthia. “I’m honored to be his mother, and I’m proud of all the men and women who serve our country.” In her work as a Public Relations Specialist, Leslie assists media in covering veterans’ issues and telling warrior stories. She attended a Caregiver Retreat where she made wonderful friendships and bonded with her own little cohort of “Wounded Warrior Moms.” “In 2011, I became the most grateful mom in the world -- my son Rory is still alive,” says Leslie. “This Mother’s Day, I’m the one saying thank you.”