ALBUQUERQUE, N.M., Jan. 6, 2017 -- With a few glances of his eyes, Erik can hop on social media to post a picture or surf to YouTube to play the latest Wu-Tang Clan video. He also can better communicate with the loved ones who are part of his daily routine. Technology helps Erik live a life comparable to any young man across America. He almost didn't have this opportunity. More than 11 years ago, a bullet fired by a sniper in Iraq struck Erik's head, leaving him paralyzed.
Erik was just 21 years old at the time. While doctors recommended a nursing home, his parents decided they would be his caregivers, sacrificing their personal lives to ensure Erik would have the best life possible, instead of spending all his time with senior citizens.
DENVER, Jan. 6, 2017 -- Chad Prichard's journey to a new life was not easy every step of the way, but he never lost the will to fight. He credits Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) for giving him the tools needed to stay the course and empowering him to overcome any barriers he encountered.
Chad began his Army career in 1995 as a reserve soldier with the 179th Transportation Company out of Belton, Missouri. When 9/11 rocked the nation, his unit was called to prepare for deployment. He deployed to Iraq in 2002 – not as a heavy vehicle operator, but as a trained civil affairs specialist with the 418th Civil Affairs Battalion.
COLUMBUS, Ohio, Jan. 6, 2017 -- For many units in the U.S. Marine Corps, a popular mantra is "improvise, adapt, and overcome." That's exactly what a group of physically impaired Swedish athletes did in the 1960s when they invented a way to play hockey – thus sled hockey was born. Recently, the Ohio Warriors sled hockey team joined a group of Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) veterans to teach them the ins and outs of the game. As they tried a new sport, warriors experienced firsthand what is possible at social events that get them out of the house and connected with fellow service members.
In addition to donating ice time for the lesson, the Ohio Warriors provided WWP veterans with everything they needed to play, including the dual sticks and bladed sleds. To solidify the connection between the two groups, each person received a special WWP hockey jersey.
DELRAY BEACH, Fla., Jan. 5, 2017 -- The Delray Beach Police Department recently honored a group of injured veterans served by Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP). The ceremony featured a breakfast, golf tournament, and special presentation by the mayor of Delray Beach that recognized wounded service members.
Warriors teamed up with law enforcement officers for the 18-hole game, and among them was Army veteran Eddie O'Neal. He said the ceremony where he and 24 other warriors were honored was humbling because of the respect he has for others who serve outside the military.
MARION, Ala., Jan. 5, 2017 -- The chill in the air is a sign of more than just the arrival of winter – it's the arrival of deer season in Alabama. For a group of injured service members served by Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP), it was not only a chance to bag a prize buck, but it was also an opportunity to see old friends – and make new ones.
"When you pull up to the main gate with the Wounded Warrior Project flag flying alongside the American flag, it blows you away," said Air Force veteran John Hacker. "The beautiful land and scenery really puts you in a good place. It's peaceful, and the staff pull you in and make you feel like part of the family. From the first handshake, I felt welcome."
ORLANDO, Fla., Jan. 5, 2017 -- More than 60 veterans with Orlando's Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) Peer Support Group and The Mission Continues Orlando 1st Service Platoon teamed up with other local nonprofit organizations to help Central Florida boys and girls from Eckerd Kids Project Bridge feel more at home after moving to a new location that had been previously vacant for years.
Project Bridge is a youth transitional service offered through Eckerd Kids – one of the nation's largest nonprofit child and family service organizations. It collaborates with Home Builders Institute (HBI) and other groups to provide educational, vocational, mentoring, and transportation services to help Central Florida boys and girls, ages 11 to 21, achieve stable and successful lives and avoid returning to the criminal justice system.
BALTIMORE, Jan. 5, 2017 -- Along with Johns Hopkins University (JHU), Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) recently hosted a workout and physical health and wellness seminar for a group of wounded veterans at the university's state-of-the-art facilities. After a review of proper techniques and a warm-up stretch, the JHU trainers and warriors got down to business.
"There's a significant advantage to attending military-only events," said Army veteran Ronald Gaete. "There's already a baseline established in terms of who you are and what you've done, so the regular small talk is blown over and you get right to meeting people. You know each other's experiences already, and that connection is immediate, and the nervousness is gone. For me, those relationships are so important."
KNIGHTDALE, N.C., Jan. 5, 2017 -- During a recent Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) connection event at Prime Barbecue, a specialty catering service that also offers barbecue preparation classes, injured veterans talked grilling and received trade secrets from an expert. Gathering around the pits, participants spent the afternoon learning cooking techniques and connecting with fellow service members in an environment that accommodates their physical injuries and social anxieties.
More than 35 veterans attended the Ultimate School of BBQ, where barbecue pitmaster Christopher Prieto – featured on the TLC television series "BBQ Pitmasters" – taught them tips for preparing beef brisket and smoked turkey.
HONOLULU, Jan. 4, 2017 -- Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) veterans and family members recently spent a day exploring a movie-famous stretch of land at Kualoa Ranch in Honolulu. The event was one of WWP's gatherings that educates warriors, their families, and caregivers about additional programs and services to help in the recovery process, creates support through shared experiences, and builds camaraderie by connecting injured veterans to one another and warrior families.
Often, the road to recovery begins by getting out of the house. WWP program events and activities are held in settings that accommodate physical injuries and social anxieties and introduce warriors to the benefits of connecting with other injured veterans and getting involved with their communities.
ESTES PARK, Colo., Jan. 4, 2017 -- Since the cold weather has set in, Rocky Mountain National Park has transformed into a winter wonderland. A group of veterans took advantage of the white scenery during a recent Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) snowshoe hike. As injured veterans and family members braved the elements, they experienced firsthand what is possible at connection events that get them out of the house and socializing with fellow service members.
For most of the participants, strapping on snowshoes to make their way through the mountains was a brand new experience. The event focused on physical activity, perseverance, and connection – a chance for warriors to come together and bond over shared experiences.