WARRIORS SPEAK SPOKESPERSON
Jennifer Mackinday understands the complexities of being a full-time caregiver. “I had to start from scratch finding the answers,” says Jennifer. “My brother’s care required a unique set of skills that my background did not include. That’s why the connections I’ve made through Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) have been invaluable.”
In 2005, her brother James suffered multiple injuries while on a mission with his Army Stryker Brigade Combat Team in Iraq. James endured partial hearing and vision loss, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Jennifer discovered WWP when another injured veteran invited James and his family to the Chicago Air & Water Show with a group of WWP Alumni. As Jennifer recalls, they almost didn’t make the trip. “It’s a challenge for my brother to travel. However, learning more about WWP was important because my family felt isolated. At the time, we didn’t know any other military families going through what we were going through. A support structure for us didn’t exist – or so we thought.”
Jennifer’s teenage son, Grant, recognized the spirit of camaraderie among the WWP Alumni and families at the event. As Jennifer remembers it, he said to her in the car on the way home, “These people understand. They really get it. They know what it’s like to be us.”
That outing to the air show was the beginning of a life-changing experience for James. Now, Jennifer says her family has a team of people through WWP who are eager to provide support. Perhaps most importantly was her discovery of the WWP Independence Program, which has helped James live on his own without sacrificing the care he needs.
“Wounded Warrior Project has been a real difference-maker for us,” says Jennifer. “The progress I’ve seen my brother make has inspired me to help others.”
Jennifer’s journey has helped her understand the sacrifices, challenges, and unmet needs that caregivers face every day. Her message of love and support is clear and unapologetic: “I do not see my brother’s needs as a burden. If I had to drop everything to help him, I would and, quite frankly, I sometimes have. Thankfully, Wounded Warrior Project helps shoulder the needs.”
Today, Jennifer wonders what life would be like if she had declined the invitation to attend the air show. “Sometimes you have to take a very scary step off a very steep cliff. I look forward to helping as many people as I can and tell them, ‘You can make it.’”
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