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.
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.