Marine Corps veteran Tim Horton doesn’t remember much about the stop he made at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center (LRMC) in Germany – the U.S. military’s largest hospital in Europe. Tim moved through the center following a medical evacuation from Iraq. Although the seriousness of his wounds made the details unclear, he does know the staff there helped stabilize him and safely transport him stateside.
Many injured or ill servicemen and women have similar experiences as they’re transferred through LRMC. The medical center serves active-duty U.S. troops, coalition forces, and Department of State personnel throughout Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
LRMC is the only American College of Surgeons Level II Trauma Center overseas. That means seriously injured servicemen and women receive medical care at LRMC before being flown to medical facilities on the U.S. mainland. Service members facing illnesses or accidents while deployed also come to LRMC for front-line care.
Whether during peacetime or wartime, Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) offers physical and mental health services at no cost to active-duty service members, veterans, and their families. Having a small and efficient presence at LRMC enhances WWP’s mission of meeting warriors where they’re at – whether that’s a hospital bedside or the WWP office located on-site at LRMC, where walk-ins are welcomed.
“The WWP team in Germany is often the first touch point with the warrior,” said Jennifer Silva, chief program officer at WWP, and a veteran. “They work to provide a seamless transition to either providers in medical facilities across the ocean, or WWP teammates stateside who will continue to walk hand in hand with the warrior and their family members on their healing journey.”
A team of three staffers based in Landstuhl interacts with about 20 warriors per week on a regular basis. They offer steady and reassuring support to warriors medically evacuated from deployed locations regardless of the cause of injury or illness. WWP serves combat-injured service members as well as those affected by medical conditions.
“We serve patients from any deployed location in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa,” said Kristy Hogan, WWP international alumni manager in Landstuhl, Germany. “Some might come here because of training accidents, mental health issues, military sexual trauma, or medical conditions that developed while deployed. We assist warriors with all different types of wounds, illnesses, and injuries.”
The WWP office is conveniently located for servicemen and women to drop in and receive information on WWP programs and resources, register with WWP, and discuss any concerns or needs. During those brief meetings in the hospital, warriors receive a WWP gear bag – a duffel with clothing and comfort items to help them while in transit, as well as information on how to reach out to WWP for services once they return home.
The gear bag has been a distinctive gift from WWP to warriors since the organization’s founding. Most injured or ill warriors who are medevaced arrive at Landstuhl with little clothing. Given the temperature difference between places like Iraq and Germany, the articles of clothing are meant to help the warrior feel comfortable while they recover and adjust.
Along with apparel, the WWP gear bag contains hygiene items and other necessities, including haircut vouchers.
Injured or ill warriors don’t typically spend too much time at Landstuhl. Most of them expect to either be treated and returned to duty or transferred to the U.S. In the meantime, they stay in an area designated as medical transient detachment (MTD).
WWP staff look after warriors who stay in the “MTD barracks” and make every effort to ease them into recovery. Recently, WWP donated new pillows and fans for all rooms at the MTD. This donation was to ensure the patients stay cool and comfortable during the hot summer months in buildings that do not have air conditioning.
With additional U.S. troops mobilized to Europe because of the conflict in Ukraine, the volume of service members needing LRMC’s services remains steady. The medical center potentially serves more than 205,000 military and civil service personnel stationed throughout the region. About 100,000 wounded warriors have been treated at LRMC as they are medically evacuated to the mainland U.S. or corresponding countries’ medical facilities since 2001, according to the Department of Defense.
Oftentimes, the stop at Landstuhl is the first opportunity to address other needs in addition to physical issues. “Sometimes we’re among the first to ask a service member, ‘how are you?,” Kristy said. “They share their stories with us. It happens a lot that we’ll just be talking about WWP services and they’re a puddle of tears. The personal connections are important. We want them to know WWP is here for them and remember the interaction positively so that they’ll reach out to us if they need help in the future.”
“As a transitioning service member, you may be wondering what is next, and how to get back to your military career,” said Dan Schnock, WWP-East alumni director, and a veteran. “An injured service member is likely to feel bad about leaving their unit and be thinking about how to get back to it.” WWP staff recognize this transition may be difficult and want warriors to know that no matter the outcome, WWP is here to help.
“When Wounded Warrior Project receives an injured or ill individual, we invite them to register for WWP services whether they are still active duty or in the process of transitioning out of the military for any reason,” Dan said.
WWP’s partnership with the American Red Cross helps to support professional care providers at LRMC by providing staff resiliency events and collaboration on special missions, such as the Afghan evacuation in 2021 (Operation Allies Welcome).
Because of well-established relationships, WWP staff also support mental health programs, a traumatic brain injury (TBI) clinic, a PTSD clinic, and substance use programs based in Landstuhl.
Outside of the hospital environment, a large community of service members and civil service personnel reside in the Landstuhl area. WWP hosts in-person and virtual events for local warriors and their families throughout Europe. This helps establish a network of support for servicemen and women living abroad.
There are approximately 50,000 active-duty service members in the Kaiserslautern military community that surrounds LRMC. Warriors and family support members are invited to participate in monthly WWP events.
“It’s an honor to help warriors at their most vulnerable time,” Kristy said. “We take that honor very seriously and want servicemen and women to know they are appreciated, and we are here for them.”
Learn more about WWP services and connect here.
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.