Returning from service and transitioning to civilian life can be difficult for veterans, especially those dealing with wounds of war. It can also create challenges on the home front as spouses and children deal with the stress of a warrior’s transition.
For Army aviation veteran Bill Jones, that transition was especially difficult. He describes going from an outgoing individual to a controlling person who struggled with change.
“It just set me off,” Bill said. “On the physical side, I was sensitive to noises. On the emotional side, I was sensitive to my surroundings and crowds. I always had to have an escape route and never turned my back on a crowd.”
Bill noticed these changes impacting him in 2004 when he returned from Iraq, but he had a family, so he stayed in the military an additional 10 years.
“I wasn’t allowed to show my feelings. At the time, post-traumatic stress was misunderstood, swept under the rug. If you showed any signs, your military career was over. Thinking of my children, I couldn’t do that. There’s no way I am giving up my military career.”
Instead of giving up, Bill bottled up his emotions, and as he put it, tried to prevent any backlash. Bill’s new normal included post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms such as anger and lashing out, isolation, negative feelings and beliefs, and avoidance.
In 2013 though, Bill learned about a veterans charity making a difference. He researched Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) and registered to get involved. Bill started by connecting with other veterans and taking part in a mental health workshop.
“It was the biggest help for me understanding my PTSD. I was able to meet other people who were similar and experiencing the same things. And I began to trust other people again.”
That trust comes from being around other service members.
“They were just like me. They felt the same way that I did. They experienced similar surroundings and knew what I was going through. Wounded Warrior Project helped me understand that I needed to explore for more help.”
For Bill, there was more than just connecting with other veterans. WWP helped him improve his relationship with his family.
“I became less aggressive and more understanding and was able to tell my story to my wife for the first time and have her understand what I was experiencing. She was more supportive, and the kids started to understand that I am trying.
“I began to rebuild my relationship with my kids and rekindle my relationship with my wife for the first time in 10 years. We were no longer experiencing the same marital problems we had because she understood just how much I was fighting myself. Ten years of suppressing what I didn’t want to face.”
WWP understands how important family is in a warrior’s recovery. It is why WWP programs involve spouses and children when appropriate. It is also why WWP partners with organizations dedicated to serving children of veterans and service members.
“So often the focus on the warrior leads to the family being forgotten,” Bill said. “Many times, the family experiences more than the warrior because the family has to deal with the brunt of what a warrior experiences. They deal with rage outbursts, inconsistency of discipline, the explosions that happen, and the lack of trust. It is very difficult to look back and realize what they went through.”
WWP also helps family and caregivers connect with the government benefits they are eligible for. WWP led the charge to get Congress to pass the Veterans and Caregivers Omnibus Healthcare Act of 2011. That law provides improved support for caregivers of the most seriously injured veterans in the form of stipends, health care coverage, travel expenses to accompany a veteran seeking care, and mental health care. This law has meant more than $3 billion in support for these caregivers and families.
Bill’s family is not eligible for that law, but they received something more important.
“Wounded Warrior Project gave me my life back. I could not have reconnected with my wife and kids without it.”
WWP programs helped Bill be a better husband and father.
“We were at the brink of divorce. I was not trusting her; she was not trusting me. She was very upset at how controlling I had become. She was terrified about what was going to happen because I was medically retired and had no prospects for work. If it were not for Wounded Warrior Project, I would not be the same person I am now.”
Bill and his wife Jennifer attended a multi-day, rehabilitative mental health workshop together where they learned to communicate better.
“I’ve also tried to get more involved with Wounded Warrior Project’s family events here around Nashville.”
WWP has helped Bill resolve issues with his family and work on his next mission – his career and family.
“I want to make sure my family never questions that I love them.”
Bill has also had the opportunity to help other wounded veterans.
“I want to give back to warriors by providing the type of support I was given. I took on several veterans dealing with PTSD. I would listen to what they were experiencing and provide support. When they had questions, I was able to answer through experience.”
Bill’s goal is to help as many warriors as he can. He knows the needs of veterans will continue.
“There is always going to be a need to help veterans. These injuries, mentally or physically, always happen, so there will always be a need for programs that support those wounded in some way during their time in service.”
Despite attention on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq waning, the military is still active in those areas and regions around the world. WWP is still there for these men and women when they are hurt. WWP has teammates in Landstuhl Medical Center in Germany to help provide comfort items and other support to wounded veterans and their families. Landstuhl is the primary medical care provider for service members injured in Europe, Southwest Asia, and the Middle East.
WWP also visits with wounded service members at major military medical centers stateside – Walter Reed Medical Center near Washington, DC and Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. Since 2003, WWP has delivered more than 65,000 backpacks, transition care packs, and family support bags to wounded warriors and their families.
While WWP meets many warriors at their hospital beds, many more are in the situation Bill is in. They return home thinking they are OK, only to discover the invisible wounds of war impact them. This is why it is important for warriors to tell other warriors about the impactful programs and services offered free of charge.
“My family has benefited from my change in personality and my ability to reclaim my normalcy in life. It was with these programs and the learnings and understanding about my how PTSD operates that I was able to recover my life and in the same way, recover my family.
“My life has changed so much for the better in the last five years,” Bill said. “I am living proof.”
Learn how WWP meets warriors and families where they are on their journeys and helps them find their next mission: https://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/programs/family-support.
Contact: Rob Louis – Public Relations, firstname.lastname@example.org, 904.627.0432
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: https://newsroom.woundedwarriorproject.org.