JACKSONVILLE, Fla., May 26, 2017 -- Bicycling is a big deal here at Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP). For years, it's been one of the most accessible methods for the warriors we serve to stay active and healthy. It's also one of our biggest programs: Soldier Ride®, the multi-day cycling event that connects warriors as they push themselves physically and mentally while managing visible and invisible wounds of war.
Our cycling programs have taken us to places such as Puerto Rico, San Diego, Seattle, New York City, and even Washington, DC, where the president of the United States met with a group of warriors in April. WWP Physical Health and Wellness Director James Herrera has ridden alongside some of these amazing men and women and has heard some of their successes and stories. Our warriors have had a lot to say about cycling and Soldier Ride:
NORTH LAS VEGAS, Nev., May 26, 2017 -- Dwayne Fitzpatrick took his wife and daughter to a recent MMA-style self-defense class so they could learn how to get out of trouble. As punches were thrown, Dwayne quickly was empowered to learn how Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) programs help his body and mind heal.
"This was our very first Wound Warrior Project event," the Army veteran said. "We definitely will attend others. It was a great way connect with other warriors – and to burn off some energy."
WWP program events like this give wounded warriors an opportunity to experience firsthand what is possible at social gatherings that get them out of the house and connect them with fellow service members and their communities.
FORT WORTH, Texas, May 25, 2017 -- For Kim Simmons, volunteering recently at Pat's Run was about giving back to all of the warriors who have served their country.
For Bryon Crawley, it was an opportunity to embrace his Army family.
The 13th annual run also allowed both to proudly represent Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) on the 4.2-mile course. They joined other warriors and family members to encourage the runners while handing out water, keepsakes, and other WWP information to all veterans who supported the Pat Tillman Foundation scholarship fund.
"I believe a big part of Wounded Warrior Project is about giving back," Kim said. "We're a community, and the circle's big."
Veterans and their families enjoyed the opportunity to connect with their community while feeling empowered through helping others at the run.
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla., May 24, 2017 -- Although the answer was right in front of them, Jasmin Rosario's team had trouble finding the clue to help them unlock a door during a recent Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) escape room gathering.
"We needed a four-digit date to unlock the combination," the Navy veteran said. "We were looking for the year a couple got married. We finally found the date on a champagne glass. It was so easy that it was hard."
Groups got 60 minutes to solve puzzles and find clues to get out of their confined space. Hints could only be cracked when all six people worked in unison, since puzzles often needed several hands to solve.
"Everyone helped and participated," Jasmin said. "Nobody was scared to be locked in there. You were given a certain amount of time, so you had to work quickly. You made friends really fast.
PITTSBURGH, May 23, 2016 -- Stack-Up and Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) once again brought video game night to Pittsburgh for friendly competition, food, and fellowship. Stack-Up, a charity organization that brings veterans and civilian supporters together through a shared love of video gaming, co-hosted the event with WWP. Chris Kitner, an Army veteran and warrior served by WWP, got something special from the evening.
"I met another warrior that I can dominate in FIFA 2017 on a daily basis," Chris joked. "Honestly though, I'm not really an avid gamer. I enjoy it as a way to decompress. It's a way to detach myself from any stressors for at least a few minutes."
For many veterans, the experiences they had in the military were some of the best of their lives, filled with camaraderie, meaning, and direction. But upon the return to civilian life, isolation can be one of the most significant struggles wounded warriors deal with. That's why WWP and Stack-Up have hosted several game nights at WWP offices to provide bonding opportunities that extend beyond a single gathering.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla., May 23, 2017 -- When Kurt Wilson returns home later this month, he will be greeted by a sign that simply reads, "Home Sweet Home."
When David Medina goes to sleep each night, he will pass a wooden panel on the bedroom door that says, "For all the things my hands have held the best by far is you."
A recent Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) event connected warrior family members during an afternoon of crafting unique plaques – each made by hand and from the heart – while sharing their experiences.
SAN DIEGO, May 22, 2017 -- Carol Flynn rarely strayed from using salt and pepper, but a recent Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) cooking class empowered the Navy veteran to find healthier ways to spice her favorite dishes.
"I love to cook and bake, but unfortunately it's not always healthy," she said. "The class opened my eyes to different techniques and flavors. I was amazed how much you could do with simple ingredients.
"I used to put lemon pepper on everything. Now I use ginger, garlic, and scallions as much as I can. The best part is, it's good for me. Now I look at food differently."
WASHINGTON, May 19, 2017 -- Fallon Mitchell wants to turn her joy of baking and recipes that started with her grandmother into a business. Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) helped the Army veteran move closer to making that dream a reality.
Fallon recently joined other warriors in an entrepreneurship workshop to understand the demands of time, costs, and promotion, and the likelihood of turning a profit.
"We got a guidebook to start our own businesses," Fallon said. "One thing that stood out is the specific material tailored to my own personal business. One of the counselors used to own a catering business, so she really helped me move ahead."
TAMPA, Fla., May 18, 2017 -- For retired Lt. Col. Kathy Champion, a recent Wednesday morning provided something she had been missing.
"This little bit of independence I am getting back means more self-respect," Kathy said. "I don't have to rely on others to order food at a restaurant, to even look at a menu."
Kathy survived firefights and improvised explosive devices (IED) while serving two deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq. But a virus she contracted while deployed took her sight.
"I can tell you are standing in the room, but I cannot see who you are."
CARROLL, N.H., May 18, 2017 -- On a scale of 1 to 10, Erin Larsen said a recent Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) gathering for veterans' family members in the White Mountains "was a 12."
Long hikes through the snowy woods and quiet moments at a lodge helped her and other families find common solutions to difficult struggles – particularly the need to recharge emotionally and physically.
"I don't take time off for myself," said Erin, whose husband is an Army veteran. "I'm usually at a doctor appointment, or at therapy, or trying to get housework done. This was for me.
"We all made new friends. It's nice to know you're not alone in this."