SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, Oct. 26, 2017 -- Hurricane Maria roared ashore in Puerto Rico on the morning of Wednesday, Sept. 20. The powerful storm packed sustained winds of more than 150 mph, whipping through an island nation already impacted by another hurricane just weeks earlier.
As the sun rose, the island of more than 3 million people – including about 75,000 veterans – discovered terrible devastation. Puerto Rico's electric grid was in shambles. More than three weeks after Maria, the utility that provides water to 97 percent of the island struggles to meet demand.
Puerto Rico veterans have played a significant role in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. More than 700 injured veterans and family members on the island are registered with Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP). Like much of Puerto Rico, they have all been impacted by the hurricane.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla., Oct. 19, 2017 -- Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) recently took a group of veterans and their families to the ultimate game day experience at Florida State University (FSU). In addition to tickets to the game, veterans and their guests enjoyed a tour of the stadium and weight room, on-field access during pre-game warmups, and they even met with the Seminoles head football coach.
"The best part of the game was the tour of FSU's awesome athletic center and meeting FSU's head coach, Jimbo Fisher," said Air Force veteran Ruben Salazar. "He took the time to meet all of us individually and thanked us for our service. A bonus was that he signed mini football helmets for us!"
National Guard veteran Jeremiah Bailey enjoyed the interaction with Jimbo Fisher as well. "The behind-the-scenes tour and meeting the head coach was a blessing and truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Oct. 17, 2017 -- Applying for disability compensation benefits with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is not the easiest task to manage. It can often be very confusing for warriors who might not understand the laws and regulations that impact the VA's final decision on a claim, leaving injured veterans frustrated as to why their claims are being denied.
Before starting the benefit claims process, it's important to understand the basic principles of what constitutes a "service connection." For most service-connected claims, there must be documented medical evidence of the claimed condition during military service. Next, the condition must be proven to be chronic – essentially, there should be a paper trail of continued treatment for the claimed condition event after being discharged from service.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Oct. 13, 2017 -- Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) relies on the support of donors, including individual supporters, corporate partners, and even groups of students. Young entrepreneur Matt Revnew recently reached out to WWP. His business, Maverick Men's, sells hair pomade for men. He stated his intentions to donate proceeds from the sales of his products to support those WWP serves.
"I wanted to have a better hair product to use," Matt said. "I had the idea in May of 2017 and didn't put it into action until about July of 2017 when I went to an entrepreneur camp at a local high school. I plan on seeing it grow immensely from the time of October 2017 to February 2018."
Like many who have chosen to support WWP, Matt has family who served in the military. His grandfather, Gerald, served in the Air Force during the Korean War. His uncle, Bob, saw combat in Desert Storm.
TEMPE, Ariz., Oct. 13, 2017 -- Even though Arizona has no ocean coastline, veterans and their families recently had the opportunity to master the art of surfing in Tempe thanks to Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP).
WWP partnered with Big Surf to offer veterans and their families five weeks of surf sessions. While surfing is often recognized for its physical health benefits, it also promotes mental health by offering warriors the opportunity to connect with fellow service members. All WWP connection events support the long-term recovery of warriors by providing a chance to build lasting support structures.
Army veteran Jesus Ibarra said he always wanted to surf. Not only did he fulfill his dream, but he also met other service members who can relate to his struggles.
ROCK HILL, S.C., Oct. 11, 2017 -- Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) Soldier Ride®, presented by USAA®, continued its roll across America to serve another community of wounded warriors. In South Carolina, over 40 warriors hit the road and began building a local network of veterans that can provide critical support on the path to recovery.
Army veteran Triron James showed up for the ride to get more than just a workout on the bicycle underneath him.
"I wanted to link up with other veterans and get that sense of unity back," Triron said. "I came out here hoping to challenge myself physically, but also to learn more life skills and build a network with other veterans in my community. We all have that service history in common, but it's surprising how quickly everyone has come together. Everything comes back together to give us that sense of unity. We're all motivating each other, supporting each other. I needed that, and I need it in my day-to-day life."
DALLAS, Oct. 11, 2017 -- Warrior couples from across the nation regularly attend Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) multi-day mental health workshops that are held regionally. These gatherings are often the first time warriors leave their homes as couples to connect with other veterans and the local community.
"I'm not the same person that I used to be," said Marc Harrington, U.S. Army National Guard (ANG) wounded warrior from Louisville, Texas. Marc and his wife, Brittnay, were married in 2015. She is also an injured veteran who served in the ANG. She introduced Marc to WWP after he returned from his last deployment and learned that he was to be medically retired due to his injuries. "My invisible wounds have impacted my family and marriage. I don't want to just hang out. And when I'm upset – I don't want to talk it out. I walk away. Eighty percent of the time, I'm secluding myself from life."
Through the generous support of donors, WWP offers veterans specialized mental health programs and services – tailored to each warrior's specific needs and free of charge.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Oct. 6, 2017 -- There's a lot of resources that go into serving over 100,000 wounded warriors, their family members, and caregivers. Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) is able to provide free programs and services and meet the needs of those we serve, because of donors like you. But for those who are unsure about how they can support WWP, there are many ways to get involved.
CINCINNATI, Oct. 4, 2017 -- After months of support from the Cincinnati Reds baseball team, veterans served by Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) enjoyed one more evening game at the Great American Ball Park. Since July, the Cincinnati Reds and pitcher Scott Feldman have been donating tickets to warriors and their families as part of a campaign designed to give back to injured veterans. Army veteran Joseph Fichter said it was humbling to learn about Scott's background with the military and how he chooses to help the warriors served by WWP.
"It was awesome that Scott took time out of his day to sign items and speak with us," Joseph said. "Also, during batting practice we got see to Joey Votto give a ball and pair of batting gloves to one of the warriors and his son because his son loves Joey."
Joseph is a true Reds fan, good seasons or bad, and his special plus-one at the game was his daughter, Teegan. The baseball game was more than just a chance for warriors and their family members to come together for a night of camaraderie – it was a chance to build support systems that help with recovery from the wounds of war.
CHICAGO, Oct. 4, 2017 -- As Hope Cruttendan tells it, Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) provided courage at a time when she needed it most. She served her nation in the National Guard, in Iraq.
Her separation from the military left her feeling isolated and depressed. She first registered with WWP in 2012 but waited years to get involved.
"At first, I didn't do anything because I was injured and didn't think I could do the things Wounded Warrior Project was doing," Hope said.
While dealing with her injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Hope found a new battle. Doctors diagnosed her with two types of cancer. That's when she turned back to WWP for encouragement.