A Tradition of Showing Up for Veterans and Their Families – All Bound Up in a Backpack
When Army Veteran Bryan Wagner lost his leg at age 21, Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) was there to bring hope and support. The symbol of that support came in the form of a backpack delivered to his hospital room.
The backpack contained personal items, and clothing Bryan could use while undergoing surgeries and rehab at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Bryan still talks about the significance of that gift, and how life changed after he received help and support from WWP.
“I was given two things that day: a backpack and a promise that Wounded Warrior Project will always be there for me, and they have,” Bryan said.
While WWP continues to deliver these backpacks to the hospital bedsides of wounded warriors, they also provide them to the children of those who gave so much to defend our country. Every year, with the help of partners, and supporters, WWP fills hundreds of backpacks with school supplies for children returning to the classroom.
“My own children have benefitted from Wounded Warrior Project’s support as we got ready for back to school in the past,” said Kevin Sosa, Army veteran and WWP staffer who now manages events for military families.
In Florida, Kevin and his team collaborated with WWP community partner Travis Manion Foundation to host military families in Jacksonville, Orlando, Pensacola, and Tampa to distribute school supplies to children. About 1,300 veterans and family support members participated in 19 events nationwide in 2023.
“It’s heartwarming to have our community partner, Travis Manion Foundation, joining our back-to-school efforts, and we applaud them for hosting their Back-to-School Character Day events nationwide,” said Ashley Bunce, Community Partnerships and Investments Director for WWP. “It’s through collaborations like this that we can expand our reach to help more veterans and their families improve their quality of life.”
Similar Back to School events took place in Nashville, Tennessee, Phoenix, Arizona, and many other parts of the country where WWP provides support for veterans and their families.
Smooth Back-to-School Transition Tips for Military Families
Helping your family get back to a healthy routine at the beginning of a new school year can be a challenge, but it’s essential to children’s development. Like any mission in life, back-to-school time requires some planning and precise yet flexible execution to create a smooth transition back to the classroom.
Here are some useful tips:
- Adjust eating times. Establish mealtimes and stick with them. Adjusting mealtimes can help with bedtimes, too. If you eat early, it’s easier to get to bed early.
- Choose healthy snacks. Try to eat and offer snacks that don’t come in a packet. Prepackaged foods might look convenient but usually have low nutritional value. Trade prepackaged snacks for fresh fruit.
- Get that backpack ready. Help your children double-check that all materials are ready the night before. Make sure they have what they need and save them (and you) the stress.
- Reacquaint your kids with the calendar schedule. Post a family calendar to track everyone’s activities. Let each child choose their favorite calendar or phone app to keep track of their own schedule and own it.
- Set a homework alarm each day. Use an alarm or timer to signal the beginning and end of homework time. Let your student take a break after a period of sitting down to work.
- Get a check-up. It’s good to visit your family doctor at the beginning of the school year to do an annual check-up for your children. You can take advantage of this time to have your family doctor emphasize the importance of healthy eating and exercising.
- Get to know other parents. Volunteer to do a small task in your child’s homeroom and use the opportunity to meet other parents. The interaction might result in playdates for young children and carpool buddies for older kids.
- When in doubt, talk, talk, and then talk some more. Be sure to communicate with your children. Let them express their feelings about anxiety or excitement as they return to school. Share what you thought and how you adjusted at their age. Communication is vital to developing trust between you and your child, which will allow them to feel safe to come to you regardless of the topic.
- Teach relaxation. Life is filled with events that create anxiety. Provide your children with tools to deal with those stressful events. Help them understand those events are temporary. There are countless resources online with techniques and recommendations to ensure they do not feel dismissed.
- Help establish familiarity. If you’re new to a neighborhood or school, take the time to talk with your kids and support them as they get acquainted. If you’re having a tough time adjusting to a new place or a new lifestyle, find the right support for you too so that you can be fully present for your children. Remember, the oxygen mask must go on yourself first.
Wounded Warrior Project supports military families in back-to-school readiness, including workshops and school supply donations, thanks to support from generous donors. Registered warriors and their families can participate in back-to-school activities throughout the nation.
About Wounded Warrior Project
Since 2003, Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) has been meeting the growing needs of warriors, their families, and caregivers — helping them achieve their highest ambition. Learn more.