KAPOLEI, Hawaii, Feb. 27, 2017 -- Warm ocean breezes and opportunities to bond with fellow veterans awaited guests during a recent Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) luau. Injured veterans and guests experienced a taste of true island culture and the benefits of connecting with the community and fellow service members.
Attendees enjoyed boat rides, getting temporary tattoos with Polynesian designs, making leis, and witnessing traditional Hawaiian practices such as casting fishing nets and shucking coconuts. Dinner festivities started with a gathering around the underground oven – also called an imu – to see the removal of the roasted pig. While the warriors dined on native delicacies, dancers put on a show to represent the islands of Hawaii, Tahiti, Fiji, Samoa, and New Zealand.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Feb. 27, 2017 -- After 146 years, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® Circus will bid a final farewell to audiences in May. Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) veterans and their families recently experienced the magic one last time in Jacksonville. While warriors and guests enjoyed the feats of both human and animal stars, they learned what is possible at social events that get them out of the house and connected with fellow service members.
Before the act began in the big top, guest ringmaster Chris Shriver of news station WJXT called attention to the warriors in attendance, and the audience roared their appreciation. Soon after, they were entertained by exotic animals, trick riders, acrobats, and more. Army veteran Carl Wheless took joy in seeing the show delight his wife and three-year-old son.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Feb. 24, 2017 -- Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) veterans recently joined roughly 200 of their brothers and sisters in arms at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena, where they networked with several veterans service organizations at the quarterly Vets 4 Vets event. Such a large gathering of peers let WWP warriors experience what is possible at events that get them out of the house and socially connected with fellow service members.
Warriors listened to guest speakers from Canine Companions for Independence®, United Service Organizations, Dignity Memorial®, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 8255, and more. Other organizations such as Mission 22, Reboot Combat Recovery, and Florida Fallen Heroes set up informational tables. The wide selection of beneficial resources made the event particularly attractive to Navy veteran April Imani Smith.
PITTSBURGH, Feb. 24, 2017 -- Video game night made a triumphant return to the Pittsburgh Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) office, providing injured veterans with a night of 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. While video gaming often carries the stereotype of being an anti-social activity, it's the opposite for one Marine Corps veteran.
"I love going to Wounded Warrior Project events because they give me a chance to connect with other veterans," said wounded warrior George Powell. "The game nights have been my favorite by far. With the way these gatherings are set up, anyone can jump in and out of the different game sessions. It makes it comfortable and easy to meet everyone."
NEW YORK, Feb. 24, 2017 -- A good day at work for Army veteran Danny Benitez is all about brains. Not learning something new, not just making smart decisions – actual, physical, brains. Danny works with researchers at a hospital in New York. For the past 30 years, doctors there have studied brains to find links to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, and dementia.
That's where Danny comes in; he responds to referrals and screens the individuals to see if they would be a fit. Then he has the unenviable task of approaching family right after the death of a loved one.
BALTIMORE, Feb. 17, 2017 -- Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) and Johns Hopkins University (JHU) recently hosted a workout and physical health and wellness expo for a group of wounded veterans at the university's workout facilities. Among the attendees was Army veteran Mark Mills; he served 17 years before being medically discharged.
"I knew what I wanted to learn coming into this event – nutrition," he said. "And that's exactly what happened. The chef taught us some helpful techniques. My wife and mom both had surgery last month, and I've been taking care of them. Learning those healthy recipes and fast cooking techniques couldn't have come at a better time. I also want to lose some weight; I'm currently at 196 pounds, but my long-term goal is to get down to 186."
WASHINGTON, Feb. 17, 2017 -- Georgetown University opened its doors recently to injured veterans taking part in a Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) Physical Health and Wellness coaching program. As they spent three days exploring exercise, nutrition, and lifestyle goals, warriors reaped the benefits of getting out of the house and connecting with fellow service members.
The expo kick-started a 90-day coaching program, which will empower warriors to rehabilitate themselves through physical and nutritional practices. Participants set goals and received tools to track individual progress on the first day. Warriors were then tested for range of motion and learned about adaptive exercises that could be incorporated into an effective workout regimen. After learning about proper nutrition and hydration with a sports nutritionist, the group headed to the Verizon Center to see the men's basketball team face off against UCONN. Veterans rounded out their expo experience with a Total Body Resistance Exercise (TRX) workout demo, followed by a tour of the Thompson Athletic Center. Georgetown's head football coach met with the group to share insights on the importance of mindset and motivation.
KILLINGTON, Vt., Feb. 17, 2017 -- An abundance of snow and chilly temperatures could not keep Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) veterans away from the slopes of Pico Mountain recently. Participants skied, rode snowboards, and enjoyed the benefits of getting out of the house and connecting with fellow service members.
Warriors and guests arrived at the mountain early, eager to obtain their equipment and conquer the snowy peaks. Many participants were beginners, so the bunny slope was busy throughout the day. Only an afternoon trip to the Slopeside Grill for lunch interrupted the action.
HOUSTON, Feb. 16, 2017 -- During the biggest night in football, one warrior served by Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) was able to experience the action up close. While attending an event hosted by USAA® and the NFL, U.S. Marine Corps veteran Marcelino Gonzalez was chosen as the lucky winner for two free tickets – donated by the NFL – to Super Bowl LI. He and his wife enjoyed the game, close to the field – and another prominent attendee.
"The feeling of being there was surreal," Marcelino said. "Going to the Super Bowl is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. To experience it with my wife made it even better. My seats were in a great section, 40 feet from Vice President Mike Pence. It was an amazing game."
WHITESBURG, Ga., Feb. 16, 2017 -- Warriors recently attended a Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) mental health workshop at Historic Banning Mills in Whitesburg, Georgia. These gatherings are often the first time warriors leave their homes to connect with others in their communities.
"Combat stress changed everything about my life," said U.S. Army and Army Reserve combat veteran Edwin Medina, who is from Jacksonville, Florida, and recently attended a WWP mental health workshop. "I'm not the same person I was before I deployed. It's a struggle every day."