Archive Logo.jpg

June 29, 2006

Trias - this post's for you.

Wounded Warrior Program leads Soldiers, families through recovery By Katisha Draughn

June 28, 2006

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, June 28, 2006) – Staff Sgt. Jarod Behee was patrolling in Iraq last spring when his life forever changed, courtesy of a sniper shot to the head.

The bullet left the California National Guardsman critically wounded, and he’s since endured numerous surgeries to decrease the swelling of his brain and repair damaged blood vessels.

Enter the Army Wounded Warrior Program, which has assisted Soldiers who’ve been severely injured while supporting the Global War on Terror since April 2004. Their injuries range from loss of limbs and sight to extreme burns and brain injuries.

“We want them to know there is someone here for them,” said Sgt. Maj. Robert McAvoy, lead NCO for the AW2. “They’ve been through a traumatic event, and they don’t need anything worse.”

The AW2 supports Soldiers and their families through a three-phased process. Phase one is notification and evacuation; phase two is the medical care and board evaluation; and phase three involves helping Soldiers reintegrate into the Army or transition to civilian employment.

“We’re there to assist and advocate for them as they face the bureaucracy in front of them, whether it be normal Army systems or the VA (Department of Veterans Affairs) as they transition into the civilian world,” McAvoy said.

When Behee’s wife, Marissa, was informed of her husband’s accident, AW2 officials immediately linked her to a Soldier/family management specialist.

“The program has been great to us,” said Marissa. “Our [specialist] called every week and was always there to listen to me and help. It was good just to have someone to vent to and talk to about my frustrations.”

While Behee moved between hospitals and eventually to private rehabilitation facilities, Marissa had her own share of hard times. Beyond being a military wife and a mother to their 5-year-old daughter, Madison, Marissa become a constant bedside supporter to her injured husband. But looking out for his wellbeing and managing his TRICARE coverage isn’t always easy.

“We’ve had good days and bad days, and we’ve hit every worse-case scenario there is,” she said. “But I don’t give up because I know that there are better days to come.”

The AW2 has helped the Behee’s and other families see better days by helping them meet financial needs. If a family has trouble paying personal and medical bills, for example, AW2 officials coordinate with non-profit organizations to seek donations that will help Soldiers and families.

William M. Years has been a Soldier/family management specialist with the AW2 for almost two years.

“When I see the light in Soldiers’ eyes and see them interact with their families again, I know I have made a difference,” he said.

Years is paired with Soldiers and families living in numerous states, to include New York, Vermont, Rhode Island, Michigan, Kentucky and Europe. He visits them often, and provides information on military benefits, transportation needs, monetary issues, loans and counseling.

“We help do things that the Soldier’s unit may not be able to,” Years said.

Thanks to efforts of AW2 officials, Behee goes through intense physical therapy at the Casa Colina Rehabilitation Center in California. He has regained considerable movement in his left arm and hand, and can now walk without assistance.

The hospital has also given the Behee’s a house on hospital grounds, making it possible for Marissa’s parents to live close by and help out.

“His injury has been a blessing in disguise because it has brought our family together and helped us realize what is important,” said Jan Szymanski, Behee’s mother-in-law.

The AW2 stays with Soldiers for five years from the date they restart their Army careers, until they transition to the civilian community or retire.

“We want our Soldiers to know they are always Soldiers, and our Army and nation will not leave them or their families behind,” McAvoy said.

For more information call (800) 237-1336 or visit www.aw2.army.mil.

To read about a wounded Soldier who has overcome some of the greatest obstacles of his injury, go to http://www4.army.mil/ocpa/read.php?story_id_key=9231.

I'm sure there are flaws in the program. No program meets every need, or all needs well. And I'm sure it took too long to get going, as the leadership resisted the idea that significant casualty-producing combat would last this long.

But there *is* a program.

Now if the Executive would ask and/or Congress would fund the VA for health care as readily as they are willing to fund credit checks... but of course, the data fiasco affects 26 million vets who might vote. The health care bill (for which there wasn't 160 million laying around like there is for credit monitoring)... well, that doesn't affect as many people, now does it?