JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Feb. 15, 2018 -- Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) headquarters hosted Soldier Ride® recently, giving warriors from all over the East coast a chance to enjoy three days of adaptive, rehabilitative cycling. For 15 years, this program has traveled the country, connecting groups of local wounded veterans to ride together as units, just like in their military service.
Michael Vouros, a wounded Air Force veteran, had only attended one WWP event before Soldier Ride Jacksonville. Project Odyssey®, an outdoor rehabilitative mental health workshop, changed his world completely.
"I had my doubts at first, with it being my first event with Wounded Warrior Project," Michael said. "Project Odyssey totally exceeded my expectations. The white-water rafting, rock climbing, and ropes course really made me step outside my comfort zone. I had some great talks – a lot of people are in the same boat. You can really connect with people on those terms."
TAMPA, Fla., Feb. 14, 2018 -- Ron Holton nearly dropped the phone in excitement when he received the big news from Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) staff. Clinton McDonald, a Tampa Bay Buccaneer defense tackle and longtime supporter of WWP, gave Ron, a Marine Corps veteran, and his wife two tickets to Super Bowl LII. And WWP partner USAA® covered the entire cost of Ron's trip – flights, accommodations, and game tickets.
"Me and my wife were watching football at the time," Ron said. "And when I heard the news, I handed my wife the phone and took off running around the house, yelling in excitement – I couldn't believe it."
For Ron, the game was more than just checking an item off his bucket list – it was a special reminder of the care WWP has provided him during recent challenges and hardships in his life.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Feb. 14, 2018 -- Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) invited injured veterans and their guests to make multi-flavored lollipops by hand. Sweet Pete's confection specialists taught candy-making techniques, and the candy shop and its customers prepared other surprises to thank warriors for their military service and sacrifice.
"Wounded Warrior Project events like this allow me to connect with other veterans," said Army veteran Adam Bagby. "I get to see how different vets react to different situations. When you have everybody come together, you can share what you felt and experienced. That's what it's all about."
Besides their own edible creations, warriors received candy boxes full of Sweet Pete's products, as well as homemade Valentine's Day cards from the store's customers. The heartfelt cards, from both children and adults, thank veterans for their service to their country and express how proud they are of our nation's warriors.
SARASOTA, Fla., Feb. 14, 2018 -- At a recent Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) mental health workshop in Tampa, Florida, a group of women veterans received critical peer support from a fellow female warrior who experienced similar hurdles after military service. These workshops include teambuilding exercises and goal-setting agendas that help warriors in their recovery processes – even after they've gone home. These gatherings are often the first time warriors leave their homes to connect with others in their communities.
"These opportunities are invaluable for female injured veterans," said Kendra Simpkins, U.S. Army veteran and WWP Peer Support warrior mentor. "There are so few women warriors, but we all share a common bond – learning to cope with similar struggles. It's important for us to find opportuntities that will build a strong support system among each other."
JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Feb. 13, 2018 -- Motorcycle enthusiasts from around the Southeast came together at a recent event hosted by Adamec Harley-Davidson® in support of Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP). Riders participated in a poker run, a multi-stop bike tour where each rider received a playing card at each respective stop. Matching the rules of poker, the rider with the best poker hand at the end of the ride won a prize.
"We had 145 riders come out from different chapters in the region, including Georgia, North Carolina, and South Florida," said Missy Rivera, events coordinator at Adamec Harley-Davidson. "Everyone looked like they had a great time – at the end when the poker hands were shown was very exciting. And a lot of our riders really enjoyed getting to see where Wounded Warrior Project's headquarters is located."
Adamec Harley-Davidson has been a supporter of WWP for years, including providing an internship to a warrior served by WWP through Warriors to Work®.
SOUTH CHINA, Maine, Feb. 13, 2018 -- Injured veterans and their families recently learned how to create one-of-a-kind paintings with the help of local artists. They connected with one another and painted winter-themed scenes with Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP).
"The paint night was an event we've never done before as a couple, and we thoroughly enjoyed spending that time together," said Jennifer Hall, wife of Army veteran Joseph. "Our schedules are always so full that we seldom take time to do something together. We learned a little more about one another and now have a great memory to hang on the wall from the event."
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla., Feb. 12, 2018 -- Female family members of injured veterans gathered for a special weekend with Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP). The ladies participated in bonding activities and workshops geared toward teaching new methods for aiding their warrior's recovery, both physically and mentally.
"My husband and I love Wounded Warrior Project and the support network they've helped us build," said Erin Inman, wife of Army veteran Andrew. "They've helped me cope with everything and gave my warrior the opportunity to participate in Soldier Ride® and some of their Physical Health and Wellness gatherings."
Following a tour of WWP headquarters, the women got to know each other through ice breakers and team-building activities. They also participated in empowering health care classes, including a hands-on essential oil workshop designed to help them with message therapy sessions for their warriors.
SOUTHBURY, Conn., Feb. 7, 2018 -- Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) invited injured veterans to experience nature at its finest and get tips on photographing American bald eagles. Warriors watched the beautiful birds in their natural habitat at the Shepaug Dam wildlife preserve. They received advice from professional photographers on how to properly use their camera equipment, edit pictures, and make everlasting memories.
"I really enjoy photography," said National Guard veteran Chris Hoff, "and just being out here, in the moment, looking at our national bird was thrilling. Also, having professionals help set your camera to the right settings allows you to relax and get that great photo."
Activities like wildlife photography and socializing with other veterans can help injured warriors cope with stress and emotional concerns. In a WWP survey of the injured warriors it serves, more than half of survey respondents (51.6 percent) expressed they talk with fellow veterans to address their mental health issues.
WESTMINSTER, Calif., Feb. 7, 2018 -- Veterans gathered to bond and learn the basics of curling, one of America's fastest-growing sports, at a recent Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) event. Curling teams slide 42-pound polished granite stones (known as rocks) from one end of a sheet of ice toward the "house," their target, at the other end. Warriors learned some of the rules and strategy used in curling and took them to the ice to play the game. The sport can be played by anyone, no matter their physical ability.
"This sport has a calming effect on me," said Navy veteran Lisa Kukula. "I also was happy to see that my fellow warriors at all levels of physical fitness and abilities were able to participate with me in the curling lesson without any special equipment."
WWP program events like this give wounded warriors an opportunity to relax, learn something new, and experience veteran peer support firsthand. These gatherings connect them with fellow service members and their communities.
DALLAS, Feb. 7, 2018 -- Jarrod Tallman is proof that persistence pays off. The Marine Corps veteran ran into roadblocks while transitioning from military life to a civilian career. He had the experience from his 11 years in the military. He had the education. What he did not have was a career fit. But 11 years after his military service ended because of injury, Jarrod says he has new purpose.
"I haven't had a job I thoroughly enjoyed since 2012," Jarrod said.
He is now the Director of Purchasing for UT Southwestern Medical Center. It is a job he originally had not considered as a "veteran job."
"I had zero medical background. But I did have a background in supply, logistics, and management." Those skills – sharpened during his Marine career – made Jarrod an ideal job candidate, but he needed encouragement.