For veteran Joey Pierstorff, setting and besting new goals is part of life. He set his sights on joining the Army after he watched the attacks on Sept. 11. Less than a year later, he was an 18-year-old soldier in boot camp in Georgia.
Injuries during deployments and two knee surgeries ended Joey’s career early, leaving him no choice but to adjust to civilian life.
He started changing long before his military career ended, starting with his first return from Iraq.
“I went numb,” Joey said. “I really didn’t care much about anything and started self-medicating with alcohol and anti-depressants. At work, I was a leader, and a good one. At home, I wasn’t there. After my second deployment when I really started to drink a lot and I started making dumb decisions, I realized I needed help.”
While Joey set his sights on straightening out his life, a friend stepped in to steer him in the right direction.
“When he found out about me transitioning out of the military for medical retirement, he introduced me to Wounded Warrior Project and told me what I was eligible for.”
That introduction helped change Joey’s life.
“I trusted him to lead me the right way.”
Through Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP), Joey immediately connected with other veterans at a golf tournament. He learned he was not alone in his challenges.
“I did get to connect with some people, and what it did was show me I wasn’t the only person that had these transitional concerns.”
That time with other veterans not only reminded Joey he still had his military family; he also developed a goal to guide him on his journey to recovery.
“I got to hear one of the Wounded Warrior Project employees, and he said something to me that really is still with me – ‘I learned through Wounded Warrior Project to thrive rather than survive’ – it’s kind of been my motivation. I don’t want to just survive; I want to thrive.”
Like many other veterans connected with WWP, Joey learned about the impact of the veterans charity through other warriors.
“They’ve all seen, heard, been, or done something you have done, and they can relate with you in some way. There is something in common with everybody.”
WWP has helped Joey with his benefits, mental health, physical health and wellness, and by connecting him with other veterans.
“I try to do as much as I can and stay as engaged as possible. The more you do, the more people you meet and the more opportunity you have to network and the best chance you have to get help and to help others.”
One program that has changed Joey’s life in the most profound ways involves a weekly phone call.
“I love the Talk program.”
WWP Talk is a telephonic support program giving warriors and their family members the opportunity to talk weekly with a WWP staff member. Besides lending an ear, the program also empowers warriors to improve their situations.
“I felt like I was digressing, going backward in a sense. I have always had a problem connecting with people, so I didn’t know if this would work for me.
“I called because I’m always looking to find new resources, new ways to help. You never know what’s going to work for you.”
Through that first phone call, Joey had a new supporter: “I had a Talk representative; I like to call him my coach. We had a connection from the moment I spoke to him. I felt like we were connected, and he made me feel super comfortable. I told him stuff I hadn’t told anyone ever in years.”
The program is much more than just talking.
“He would hold me accountable for the things I said without judging me.”
The program starts with a WWP staff member getting to know the warrior or family member. Through the first few calls, the pair talk to create a comfort level.
“Later on, they start holding you accountable with SMART goals. You will set goals that help you get better.”
Those SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. Goals are set, and plans are developed to achieve each goal. For Joey, that meant an education and getting back into the workforce, all with the help of his coach.
“He made sure I kept my goals realistic. He’d say, ‘That’s great you are going to get your bachelor’s degree, but what are you going to do beyond that? This is the beginning of your goal.”
Joey achieved his first degree and set a new goal to continue his education.
“Now I am in grad school. I wouldn’t even have my bachelor’s had I not started the program.”
Talk has not only helped keep Joey on target with his goals but has also changed his mindset.
“Knowing there is someone there that wants you to succeed; they’re not holding you accountable to be mean about it. They’re there to hold you accountable to be a better person. They want you to be a better person by doing the things you want to do.
“They are not recommending ‘Here is what we want you to do,’ it’s ‘Find out what you want to do. What do you want to do? We are going to help you reach those goals.’”
The Talk program helps warriors or family members get on track, but it is also designed to stay with the individual even after the weekly calls end.
“It’s really teaching you to hold yourself accountable, finding what you want to do. Once you get your goals in, you are going to figure out a plan. Not just ‘What am I going to do for these six months – what am I going to do to be better to start setting my own SMART goals?’”
Joey is still using what he learned to move in the right direction. He thanks WWP for being there.
“Wounded Warrior Project has been a pillar in my life and the life of my family – someone we can lean on when we need help in anything really. They’ve always found an answer when I needed it and always helped me in good times and bad.”
Joey learned long ago that help – and WWP – is just a call away.
“If I need to pick up my phone and celebrate my successes, and if I need to pick up the phone and just talk to someone, there is always somebody there.”
From talking to setting goals to improving his life and that of his family’s – “That’s really important for people who feel alone when they leave service. There’s always somebody there, and it’s great to have Wounded Warrior Project there.”
Most importantly, WWP has empowered Joey to take his recovery into his own hands. It “helped to empower me to be a better me. I learned to just accept the changes that have been made in my life and new ways to cope and new tools for my toolbox and resources.”
Learn more about the Talk program at https://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/programs/wwp-talk.
Contact: Rob Louis – Public Relations, email@example.com, 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.