I was privileged this past weekend to attend an extraordinary event, the Families of the Wounded Fund. It honored wounded veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and their families, held at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Virginia.
Helping trauma victims and wounded veterans: it starts with being aware
Seated around me were a community of people who were giving their time in volunteering and collecting funding, and providing clinical and medical care as well as related forms of support to our war heroes who had suffered tremendous physical and emotional losses in Iraq and Afghanistan. These individuals, who have experienced extreme trauma, loss of limbs, brain injury and a host of other issues, are left with significant journeys of treatment, therapy and arduous recovery.
Because these wounded veterans have to be in treatment centers such as the McGuire Virginia Medical Center, for extensive periods, they really do need family around them during this extremely difficult time. Often, this means that their family must relocate from their home during the treatment and recovery period in order to be with their spouse, parent or son/daughter. At the event I attended, one parent had relocated from Juno, Alaska to Virginia.
Families of the Wounded Fund provides financial support to the families of combat-wounded veterans: soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
I heard stories of heroic soldiers injured in battle, but I also heard how families would stay by their hero’s side through extremely difficult times of therapy and rehabilitation. Surrounding the veterans were medical and clinical personnel; a plethora of practical services for housing and food; and social workers who assisted in the relocation process. It is critical for a veteran who has been traumatized and placed in an intense treatment program to have his or her family close.
The outpouring of honor, dignity, respect and care for these wounded individuals moved me. I also witnessed other veterans and community leaders giving time and effort to make sure the needs of the families were met. I watched as businesses and corporate sponsors willingly and generously gave a portion of their profits to this valuable cause. However, most of all, I saw the wounded soldiers and their families moving towards recovery from devastating circumstances.
Recognition for service
Admiral William H. McCraven, Command of U.S. Special Operations, came from his post in Florida to this event to speak to the honorees and their families. He greeted each veteran and his or her families. The attendees favored the honorees with appreciation and a standing ovation. Many tears were shed, but also many victories were proclaimed. These were stories of courage and valor. These veterans are national heroes who served their country.
Many national issues and crises related to trauma, violence and war remind us, just as did this event, that families are just as much victims as the wounded and traumatized person. Families also carry grief, loss, pain, problems and victories.
With their injured family member, I was so pleased to see these families being honored for working together toward recovery. What an inspiring day! And what an example of the amazing people who are caring for those in significant need!
Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network