Michael Carrasquillo found himself transitioning to civilian life much earlier than expected. The Army veteran suffered five gunshot wounds during an ambush in Afghanistan in 2005, still early in his military career. After two years in hospitals, his injuries forced him from the service.
“Going from an indestructible 22-year-old, it was a humbling experience,” Michael said. “Then I’m 24, 25 – being told, ‘your career is over, you are a completely disabled person.’”
Michael’s journey through his new reality started with help from the dedicated staff at Walter Reed Medical Center. It was there he learned of Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP). But in 2005, Michael only realized his physical wounds.
“I had to learn to walk again, learn to use my hands again.”
It took years before Michael started taking advantage of the free programs and services WWP provides.
“I kind of hid away from Wounded Warrior Project and other organizations. I wasn’t ready. But I kept getting information about them and eventually got involved.
“Being around other guys like me was very helpful. I went to a football game. The only reason I went was because it was in a suite. I grew up in a very poor inner city, and I wanted to see what the suite was like. That’s what got me out of my hole.”
While a sporting event encouraged Michael to join other veterans, what he found along his journey was more significant: “being with other people who really understood me.”
“At the time it’s a feeling of, ‘I’m the only one going through this, I don’t want people to see me like this.’ It’s a freeing experience to just talk. Veteran engagement was the gateway to bigger and better things.”
Michael was still dealing with being disabled and the challenges of transition.
“I went from thinking, ‘I’m disabled so I’m never going to work again’ to being told, ‘no, we can find you work; we can help you build resumes.’”
Michael found a partner in WWP, realizing abilities he didn’t know he had, and finding the right fit for a career.
“I was barely a high school graduate, straight into the grunt infantry. I’m not skilled. But then I learned there’s programs out there to prepare you, and they got me into a job I love.”
WWP listens to veterans, focusing on what they can do, and what they enjoy doing. Trained career counseling teammates worked closely with Michael to help find the right job and develop a plan for success.
“Wounded Warrior Project helped me with building my resume, interview preparations, and walked me through the GI Bill benefit with help from the benefits team.”
By helping Michael with his Department of Veterans Affairs benefits, WWP put him in a position to not only use the opportunities he earned, it also helped him reach his career goals. The GI Bill covers the cost of a college education for service members, but when Michael served, those benefits had to be used in a specific time frame. WWP’s policy team worked with other veterans service organizations to improve education benefits for veterans like Michael. The Forever GI Bill enhances and expands education benefits for veterans, their families, or survivors.
“Wounded Warrior Project has really grown alongside me. We’ve grown together. I’ve seen Wounded Warrior Project change people’s lives in so many ways. Many of my generation would have been lost and just sitting at home and wondering what’s next. It’s had a huge impact on my life and the lives of my brothers and sisters, people I work with, people I know. It’s been incredible.”
Not only has Michael found a civilian career through WWP, he has also found a renewed purpose, helping other veterans in their transitions. Michael serves as a peer mentor to other veterans in different stages of their recoveries – bringing veterans together to help one another heal.
“There are guys who reached into my life, and the least I could do was to try to be that for someone else. Reach out, and save one guy’s life, and change their life. It’s all worth it.”
WWP is committed to helping wounded veterans achieve their highest ambition. When warriors are ready to start their next mission, WWP stands ready to serve.
“Given a little bit of support and motivation, I’ve been able to do things I never thought I could do.”
Contact: Rob Louis – Public Relations, firstname.lastname@example.org, 904.627.0432