Finding Friends with Wounded Warrior Project
Marine Corps veteran Brian Fleming, Jr., works full time and is a busy father, but he makes time for the company of other warriors. “The best thing about participating in Wounded Warrior Project events is that they provide the opportunity for us to get out,” Brian said. “Getting out prevents isolation, pulls us together, and helps us share stories.”
Spending time together on beautiful Catalina Island made for a shared adventure for a group of veterans with Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP).
“You don’t get such an opportunity all the time,” Brian said. “There’s nothing like going off to an island. It was uplifting, and even freeing in a sense. You’re not just out of the house – you’re really out.”
Brian copes with traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress, and shrapnel wounds from combat injuries. His family is a big source of support, and now he adds his veteran family as a source of strength.
“We’ve created new friendships through Wounded Warrior Project events,” Brian said. “Some of us were already hanging out together outside of organized events, and when we see each other at veterans’ events, we reminisce about activities we’ve done together and catch up on anything we missed. We find common ground among us and welcome new veterans into the group.”
The environment on the Catalina Island excursion presented opportunities to bond together, from the ferry ride to the island, to snorkeling and sightseeing.
“The island provided a close-knit environment that was conducive to holding the group together. Even after a primary event is done and the group goes in separate ways, you always keep running into each other and gravitating back together.”
“Catalina Island was a special setting that really encouraged interaction,” Brian added. “This event created a social atmosphere and a bond between the warriors.”
The very first thing that kept Brian coming back to WWP events was the warm people who welcomed him. On the Catalina Island adventure, “The level of engagement that Wounded Warrior Project staff had with every individual was remarkable,” Brian recalled. “They looked after everyone and made sure we all felt welcomed.”
Now, Brian serves as a Peer Support mentor to fellow warriors. He received training from WWP to help facilitate Peer Support groups and is one of two leaders in the Orange County area. The group meets once per month. “We also meet one-on-one when anyone needs someone to talk to,” Brian said. “I’ve been there, and I’m there for them to sit and have a cup of coffee when they need it.”
Peer Support groups help remind warriors they are not alone and that there are people who know what they go through and can help. This can supplement connection events like the Catalina Island adventure.
Socializing with other veterans helps warriors connect with the support network they need to overcome the challenges they face. In a WWP survey (https://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/survey) of the wounded warriors it serves, more than half of survey respondents (52.6 percent) expressed they talk with fellow veterans to address mental health concerns.
To learn more about how WWP connects warriors to build strength through community, visit https://wwp.news/GetConnected.
See this story in San Diego Veterans magazine: https://issuu.com/adminhlm/docs/san_diego_vets_magazine_july_2019?fr=xKAE9_zU1NQ