Air Force veteran Pedro Rosario didn’t have an easy way to connect with other veterans until Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) helped him find peers. Since then, he has participated in bicycling, kayaking, wellness coaching, and connection events on the island alongside men and women who served in the military and share experiences of healing physically and mentally from combat stress. WWP hosts free wellness and connection events on the mainland – and in Puerto Rico – for veterans and their families.
On the island, WWP recently brought veterans together for a functional workout open to all levels of ability. The next day, they gathered again for a yoga class. Both events were offered free to veterans to help them recover from visible and invisible wounds of war. WWP services range from connecting veterans with federal benefits to career counseling and wellness.
During the workout at a local fitness club, veterans learned to adapt the workout to their individual needs. Warriors did exercises designed to help them with things in their daily lives: walking, climbing stairs, lifting a 60-lb dog, or taking the laundry out of the washer machine.
Army veteran Jonathan Pagán said he learned different techniques that he can incorporate into his regular gym workout.
“I exercise regularly, and my goal is to try new things and not get bored at the gym,” Jonathan said. He’s determined to stay healthy after serving eight years of active duty, including a deployment to Afghanistan.
Puerto Ricans are the only Latino group over-represented in the U.S. military. They are twice as likely as the rest of the population to serve in the military, according to the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College, CUNY. It is estimated that 375,000 Puerto Ricans, both in the mainland and on the island, are current or former military personnel – with about 90,000 still in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Despite the numbers, finding opportunities to connect with other veterans can be challenging on the island. For Pedro, his WWP experience began with peer support gatherings in Puerto Rico and wellness activities in Florida. He enjoyed the variety and customization of the functional workout in Puerto Rico.
“The gym was set up into stations, so you could go around and try different ways to move,” Pedro said. “You could adjust the workout to your level of ability.”
After deployments to the Middle East that included Iraq, Pedro has back and knee issues that make exercise challenging. He also lives with PTSD. He took advantage of WWP’s whole health approach by participating in both the functional workout and the yoga class.
“Yoga brings me relaxation, balance, and focus,” Pedro said. “It pulls me away from the day-to-day and gives me tranquility. It might not seem like you’re doing a lot, but you’re actually working hard.”
Both Pedro and Jonathan observed that WWP helps them connect with other warriors and stay in touch. Activities like yoga, working out, and socializing with other veterans help warriors connect with the support network they need to overcome the challenges they face. In a WWP survey of the wounded warriors it serves, more than two in five (41%) expressed they talk with fellow veterans to address their mental health concerns, and 30% indicated physical activity helps.
Vesta M. Anderson – Public Relations, firstname.lastname@example.org, 904.570.0771
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.