KANEOHE, Hawaii, June 7, 2017 -- A roaring bonfire became the spark that prompted Brian Koehn to make his first connection with other veterans at a recent Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) family day and camping trip at Secret Island.
A setting sun, volcanic mountains, and a pristine Pacific coastline was the perfect backdrop for veterans and their families to enjoy a day at the beach and a night of sharing their experiences with one another.
For Brian, the same location used during filming of "Jurassic Park" was the perfect setting for his first WWP event.
"I didn't know if I was ready to mingle with other warriors, but once the fire was lit, we just seemed to be drawn closer together and the stories started," the Marine Corps veteran said.
SAN DIEGO, June 6, 2017 -- By the time Berge Zobayan finished his third hot dog at a recent San Diego Padres-Texas Rangers game, the Army veteran felt the need to "balance" it out.
So he ate a salad.
A recent gathering of Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) veterans and their families at the Major League Baseball game was a great opportunity to enjoy America's pastime and camaraderie at the same time.
"I'm a Los Angeles Dodgers fan, but I enjoyed every bit of being at the ballpark around other warriors," Berge said. "It can be overwhelming being around big crowds, but I was very relaxed spending the day with other veterans."
LAS VEGAS, June 5, 2017 -- A recent Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) photography class empowered Denise McCarson to rely on her own conceptual instincts – not the camera's automatic function – to create breathtaking images.
The National Guard veteran borrowed a camera and started taking pictures several years ago while she was deployed. When she returned home, she bought her own camera, and photography quickly turned into one of her favorite hobbies.
"I realize I have control over the camera settings," Denise said. "I decide what I want my photo to be, not the camera. I've taken thousands of photos in the past, but now they're so much better. Photography is one thing that gives me so much pleasure."
SARASOTA, Fla., June 5, 2017 -- Angel Alvarez didn't catch any fish during a recent Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) fishing trip, but he didn't feel like he went home empty-handed.
The Army veteran found the camaraderie and tranquility that helps heal his combat wounds.
"I didn't catch a thing, but that's not why I was there," Angel said. "I wanted to enjoy the fishing experience and be around other warriors. I found peace of mind being with them."
Once the boat was in the Gulf of Mexico, warriors shared their experiences and felt empowered as they worked together to catch fish in a comfortable setting.
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., June 2, 2017 -- As Mike Jernigan emerged through a portal from one of the darkened hallways onto Tropicana Field, his senses were aroused by a mix of lasting baseball memories and eruption of bright colors.
"You never forget the colors of green grass, red clay, and white lines," the Marine Corps veteran said.
Although blinded by an improvised explosive device 13 years ago during combat, Mike said a recent Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) outing to a Tampa Bay Rays-Miami Marlins game allowed him to relive some of the best moments of his life – including the vivid colors.
"I was sighted for 25 years, so I still remember everything in color," he said. "They are just as bright now as they used to be."
CHARLESTON, S.C., June 2, 2017 -- Cristian Rodriguez doesn't have a green thumb … yet.
A recent Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) trip to the historic Magnolia Plantation and Gardens empowered the Marine Corps veteran to spruce up his new home with colorful flowers and bushes.
"I'm motivated to do some gardening once we move into our new home," Cristian said. "Everything was so beautiful; the old trees were incredible. It was so peaceful and relaxing, and it was very therapeutic for me and my family. It's always comforting to see my children laugh and have a good time."
TAMPA, Fla., June 1, 2017 -- The agony showed on Andrew's face as he raised his body up. He pulled with more effort, and with some assistance, rose nearly a foot off the padded table, triumphant.
Andrew Larocca has been working out at Stay In Step, a Tampa spinal cord injury recovery center, for several weeks. His injuries, though, are not to his spine. Andrew, an Army veteran, suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in a motorcycle crash seven years ago. His injury restricts movement and hinders his vocal patterns. Andrew relies on family for daily care.
His involvement with Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) and its Independence Program has opened avenues of therapy not typically covered by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Art and music therapies helped Andrew find his voice. Independence Program also makes visits to Stay In Step possible.
HOMESTEAD, Fla., June 1, 2017 -- Becky Beyor turned a recent Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) trip to the Coral Castle museum into her family's first outing in more than a year. More importantly, it empowered her to plan more activities with her husband and children.
"Going out as a family has always been on my mind," the wife of National Guard veteran Edwin Tesheep said. "However, doing it is so much harder."
Warriors and their families toured the South Florida castle Ed Leedskalnin spent more than 28 years carving by hand. It is still a mystery how a 100-pound man moved and reshaped more than 1,100 tons of limestone without electricity and water.
WASHINGTON, May 31, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) applauds Secretary of Veterans Affairs' (VA) Dr. David Shulkin's commitment to prioritizing issues outlined in his first "State of the VA" address. WWP is engaging with VA and stakeholders in the veteran community to ensure veterans and their family members have a voice in Washington, DC and their concerns are being addressed.
Secretary Shulkin highlighted areas within the department where progress is taking place and pinpointed chronic issues in need of significant improvement to provide quality service to veterans. These issues include improving access to care; ensuring prompt payment to providers; holding staff accountable; reducing fraud, waste, and abuse; and addressing veteran suicide.
AMELIA ISLAND, Fla., May 30, 2017 -- The serenity of Michael Iwaniusz's recent kayaking trip on Lofton Creek was interrupted by two baby alligators jumping from a log into the coffee-black water. The Navy veteran didn't flinch.
"If I was on my own, I would have panicked," he said. "But I had other warriors around me. I felt safe the entire time."
Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) connected veterans and their families during a kayaking trip on Amelia Island. While paddling through one of North Florida's unspoiled sanctuaries, participants shared experiences in a picturesque and comforting environment.
Roy Rodriguez and his wife April, an Air Force veteran, love the outdoors. They brought that passion to their first WWP event outing, and they quickly benefited by making new connections.