Continuing the Fight: How Walking The Talk Keeps This Warrior Going
Melvin Gatewood is no stranger to service or sacrifice. He grew up knowing the importance of both words, with strong influences and family members leading by example for as long as he can remember.
Not only did many of his uncles and cousins serve in the military, but his grandmother also frequently took him to nursing homes to check in and be a friendly face for residents.
“The military was just something that was very embedded into my family,” Melvin said. “But the sense of service was as well.”
He knew early on that he wanted to join the military and ultimately enlisted in the National Guard before graduating from high school.
Melvin eventually deployed to Iraq where he landed alongside his brother and cousin, all serving in the region simultaneously. While the familial support overseas was a gift, he regularly thought about his mother, a social worker back home in rural Mississippi, who was now without her only two children.
Although they were in different platoons, Melvin said they each had their fair share of missions and action. They were always worried about each other, wondering if someone would come back injured.
For Melvin, that happened in 2005 when he was severely burned and injured in a Humvee explosion. He vividly remembers the explosion and the instincts that kicked in after. He focused solely on ensuring everyone else got out and then kept going to finish the mission. His own pain and injuries were the furthest thing from his mind.
“We just wrapped my arm up and I continued the mission,” he said. “I remember they kept trying to put me in the last vehicle when we were heading back out, but I just kept saying no, put me in the front. I want to be in the first vehicle.”
Forging a New Path Through Continued Service
This sense of service is what Melvin lives by every day.
When the military medically discharged him, Melvin didn’t know what his next mission would be.
But what he did know was he wasn’t done serving. He wanted to find ways to continue on that path.
Melvin registered with Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) in 2013. Since then, he’s participated a broad mix of events and programs, including the Carry Forward 5K, Soldier Ride®, Peer Support Group events, WWP Talk, and Project Odyssey®. He found a renewed sense of belonging with fellow warriors, and never turned back.
“It was just like, ‘this is what I needed,’” said Melvin. “I haven’t felt this since I was in the military … they were speaking my language.”
But even after such strong personal involvement in WWP, he found himself still longing to serve others.
Now, Melvin serves as a Peer Support Group leader, and volunteers to share his story through WWP to ensure other warriors know help is available. These roles empower Melvin to help other veterans persevere through adversity, reach out for help, and take advantage of available resources.
"Just because I carry it well doesn't mean that it's not heavy."
“You continue to fight. The battle was on the battlefield when we were over in Iraq,” he said. “But we brought a battle back with us, and a lot of times we replay those battles when we go to sleep at night. Sometimes they’ll show up with the smell of diesel at the gas pump. It may show up with a loud bang when you don’t know where it came from. But to just still be here, and to tell a brother and a sister that I still have your six.”
Healing Himself, Helping Others
He’s continuing his own mental health journey as well. Even through being a resource and a leader for others, Melvin continues to participate in WWP Talk and reach out for help himself.
“Just because I carry it well doesn’t mean that it’s not heavy,” he said.
Now that Melvin is helping lead others in their own healing journeys, he finds it critical to practice what he preaches and ensure he’s always taking care of himself, too.
“Just because you completed a program doesn’t mean that you are finished with your recovery,” Melvin said. “It’s a road to recovery. It’s an everyday process.”
Contact: Kaitlyn McCue, Public Relations, email@example.com, 904.870.1964
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.