WWP Connects Warrior With Health And Healing
Eric DeLion has reached new heights since connecting with Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP), quite literally. The U.S. Marine Corps veteran joined other wounded warriors to scale Mount Whitney in Southern California in 2012. While the hike up the more-than-14,500-foot (that’s nearly three miles up!) mountain showed Eric and other warriors they could overcome any obstacle, it also helped remind them of the value of coming together.
“Even though it was different branches, you just felt it – that brotherhood, that sisterhood – it was there again,” Eric said.
But before Eric could rekindle that camaraderie, he went through challenges. A high school athlete with aspirations of playing collegiately, crushed when an injury washed away chances of playing college sports. He met with a recruiter just before the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon in 2001.
“I was in boot camp at a rifle range when September 11 happened.”
He said that then he knew – the nation was going to war. Eric survived his first few years and a deployment with few issues. But during his next deployment in Iraq, his unit ran into trouble.
“My vehicle was hit a by an improvised explosive device, was hit a few times, multiple concussions,” he said, followed by a deep breath. “And it kind of rattled me. That’s how I got a traumatic brain injury and suffered from some post-traumatic stress.”
That explosion impacted Eric in a way he did not realize at the time. Years later, it is still creating challenges.
“I suffer from headaches, regularly. They come out of nowhere. My short-term memory is a little off as to before. Just mood swings and low tolerance for others.”
His post-traumatic stress can become an issue as Eric lives his life.
“I have anxiety and panic attacks out in public,” Eric said.
“Honestly, life’s like a roller coaster. I don’t call them bad days, but there are off days. I don’t believe in bad days. There are decent days and some off days, but I just try to keep moving forward.”
Eric first connected with other veterans at a WWP Physical Health and Wellness event – he said he felt at home right away.
WWP has been healing warriors for 15 years. At Physical Health and Wellness events, warriors explore adaptive physical activity, nutrition, and lifestyle goals. They benefit from getting out of the house, getting active, and connecting with fellow service members.
Eric, like so many other veterans, missed that team he had in the military. Through WWP, he regained that feeling. Together, his new group of friends set their goal on the highest summit in the continental United States.\
“We started training for a hike up Mount Whitney, which is the tallest mountain peak in the lower 48 states, so we did several local mountains from San Diego up to San Bernardino.”
As the group worked toward their ultimate goal of walking the miles through the trails to reach the top of Mount Whitney, they also built relationships and a support structure along their journey. They took steps to help improve their physical and mental health that they had not previously considered – forging their own trail to recovery.
“Wounded Warrior Project was basically my stepping stone to recovery; that was the first organization I came in contact with once I began my recovery,” Eric said.
In a WWP survey (https://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/survey) of the wounded warriors it serves, 30.3 percent of survey respondents expressed physical activity helps them cope with stress and emotional concerns. Opportunities like this highlight the importance of managing mental health through physical activity and connecting with other veterans.
Eric has stayed involved with WWP and its Physical Health and Wellness program – and the program events keep him connected with other veterans. He waited nearly five years after leaving the military before getting involved. Now he wants to ensure other warriors know how WWP helps.
“Wounded Warrior Project is here for veterans, and they do what they can to support America’s veterans and let them know they are not forgotten.”
WWP knows the greatest casualty is being forgotten. That’s why its programs and services are designed to move warriors out of isolation and toward journeys of recovery. WWP uses an annual survey of the warriors it serves to adjust those free programs and services to better fit veterans’ needs. Through this annual warrior survey, WWP has launched an innovative mental health care program to address post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.
Warrior Care Network® has provided world-class clinical care to more than 2,000 service members (active-duty and veteran) in less than three years at four top academic medical centers. WWP also transformed its Physical Health and Wellness program to help coach veterans to healthier lifestyles through nutrition advice, exercise lessons, and encouragement. Learn more about the survey at woundedwarriorproject.org/survey.
But WWP cannot do it alone.
“Wounded warriors need constant support,” Eric said when asked about the importance of having organizations like WWP involved in the recovery of veterans.
The veterans charity works closely with other veterans service organizations, government agencies, for-profit partners, and communities.
Eric has used WWP programs to live a healthier life and find support from fellow warriors, as well as the neighborhoods around him. Through connecting with warriors and communities, WWP helps ensure warriors never feel alone.
“It was a little more comforting knowing that there were non-military members and non-veterans there trying to support you to push you.”
WWP hosts a variety of physical health and wellness events designed to connect warriors with training, skills, and techniques that empower them to reduce stress, combat depression, and live an overall healthy and active lifestyle.
Physical health and wellness clinics cover topics such as proper techniques for exercise and fundamentals of nutrition. Just like weightlifting and cardio can help warriors lose weight and stay healthy, nutrition plays an important factor in well-being, especially when transitioning back to civilian life. WWP staff educate warriors about the four major foods groups, teach healthy food preparation techniques, and provide nutritional knowledge to promote healthy choices.
WWP is committed to helping injured veterans achieve their highest ambition. When they’re ready to start their next mission, WWP stands ready to serve.
“I’ve come a long way in my recovery; I was in a dark place. Reaching out to Wounded Warrior Project and getting involved in physical health and wellness is what helped me; that’s my therapy.”
Eric has come a long way in his journey, and with the help of WWP and other organizations, he can look forward to climbing more mountains with the support structure he’s built.
“For all those who are going through what I went through, know that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. There are always people out there who care. All you have to do is find them.”
Learn about getting involved at https://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/programs/physical-health-and-wellness.
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.