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DEFYING THE ODDS Alumni TOGETHER Survey helps in

veteran recovery

By Vesta M. Anderson


eith Sekora, U.S. Air Force veteran, was injured while serving in Afghanistan in 2010. Suffering from four large and approximately 18 mini strokes, Skeora was left with no feeling on the left side of his body and difficulty with recall. “My memory is like a slideshow,” said Sekora. “I forget 70, maybe 80 percent of my day. And I don’t remember a lot of the family stuff. I know it’s in there, I just can’t get to it.” With advancements in battlefield medicine and technology, an unprecedented percentage of service members are surviving combat injuries that would have previously been fatal. To date, more than 52,000 service members have been physically wounded in the current conflicts and it is estimated that as many as 400,000 service members live with the invisible wounds of war, including combat stress, traumatic brain injury (TBI), depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Chris Wolff, also a U.S. Air Force veteran, contracted a virus after taking a mandatory flu shot, paralyzing him from the neck down within 72-hours after being admitted in the hospital. After 33 days, doctors said he would never walk, breath, eat or talk on his own again. “If I had the ability to do it, I probably would have committed suicide,” said Wolff. “I’m trying to yell at myself to move my arms. Pick your stupid arm up. Pick your stupid arm up – that’s all I’m telling myself and nothing is happening.” With self-determination and in defiance of the doctors who diagnosed him, Wolff raised his arm off his bed by a quarter of an inch. He, like many other injured veterans, is willing to put in the work but is in need of innovative programs and services that help in his recovery. In an effort to develop new and refine current programs, services and initiatives that best serve injured veterans, and their families and caregivers, Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) began collecting statistical data from WWP Alumni membership in 2010. This would become known as the annual Alumni Survey – one of the most comprehensive and statistically relevant collections of data on post 9/11 veterans. Each subsequent survey provides updates to the previous year’s results, highlighting trends among its Alumni, comparing outcomes with other military populations and measuring the impact and mix of WWP services and programs. Sekora and Wolff would later meet at a camp teaching an introduction for adaptive sports – a program and service like others that stemmed from the information collected during the annual Alumni Survey. This meeting would forever change the course of their recovery. At Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP), injured veterans who enroll with the organization are considered “Alumni” referring to the belief that each person is from the same school—selfless service and sacrifice—and shares common experiences that allow each to be there for the other in ways unique to service


HOMELAND / November 2015

Homeland November 2015  
Homeland November 2015