A Real Need Met in Real Time
Since the beginning of the Gulf War, we as a nation have watched a redefining of our concept of War. The sheer immediacy and closeness of this new reality as a result of technology; the lack of confinement to place, time, ideology, victims or fighting force; leaves us as a nation, confused, unfocused, and often ill informed.
We seem to have learned our lesson from Vietnam Nam. We are a grateful nation that seems almost permanently stunned by the staggering damage this kind of war wreaks on our soldiers, our loved ones, our children. Spending time with John Roberts, National Service Director for WWP, I am forced to acknowledge a “new normal” which keeps this man busy finding ways to advocate for the ever-increasing number of service men and women who count on The Wounded Warrior Project to advocate for them as they struggle to find where they belong and what resources are available to them, after multiple tours after injury, both visible and invisible; as they seek work, housing, understanding, community.
When John was in his 20’s he found himself in Somalia; gravely wounded, with burns over 80 % of his body. It would take him two years of surgeries an intense rehab to begin to rebuild a life left behind in what must have seemed to have been a completely different reality. The struggle to come back from catastrophic physical trauma like that would be unimaginable to most of us. To survive the psychological trauma has to be more daunting, more protracted, perhaps even more painful and frightening than the physical recovery.
Yet here I sit, talking with a man defined by wife, children, hobbies, community, and work. John has a full life, a good life and it has been built around helping other who have been or are currently traveling down a similar path John followed all those many years ago. John heads a national team of around 60 advocates whose job it is to help returning service members apply for and receive much needed, greatly deserved benefits to assist them in their recovery. And most impressive of all the things he told me is that they can claim a 90% success rate.
They do that by filing “good claims”. “Getting it right the first time” sometimes means telling someone he or she does not have a valid claim and though that is hard to do, there are literally thousands of claims languishing in courts for years because of being denied the first time. The Texas Veterans Association processes up to half a million claims a year for veterans. Houston alone has the third largest veteran population in the country. “We Texans are a patriotic bunch. It’s not like when there was a draft. Our forces are volunteer. This is usually a calling. There is a need or a desire to serve others and sometimes that translates back into society and sometimes it doesn’t. I’m one of the lucky ones.”
When I asked how we as a Community could help support Wounded Warriors, his answer surprised me. He said that often we confuse Veterans Day and Memorial Day. He said that to show up at a Veterans Day function and “just say ‘Thanks for your service’” would mean something much. “Texas City is great. They will put on a parade for just about anything. And people show up…it’s good. How great would it be though if we all just stepped away from the barbecue grill and showed up just for a minute, to acknowledge them and their service.”
He commented on how meaningful it is on Memorial Day, to place the flags on Veteran graves sites and what a great job the schools do educating the students to appreciate and honor our Fallen Heroes on that day. This is a day to honor the fallen, “maybe the only day of the year you might not want to thank a Veteran for his or her service.
Wounded Warriors provides much needed services across our country. We will be revisiting this topic to provide more information as to what they do and who you might contact should have a loved one in need or be in need yourself, for their assistance. Watch this space….in print and online. Visit our YOUTUBE Channel to see John Roberts & Rick Allen of Def Leppard.