JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Jan. 12, 2017) – When Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) launched Warrior Care Network® last year, the goal was to provide treatment and coping skills for today’s generation of wounded veterans. Less than a year after uniting four intensive outpatient programs at some of the top academic medical centers in the country, Warrior Care Network has proven results.
Take Charles, a warrior who served deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq – and still serves our country today. He asked to keep his identity hidden because of his active-duty role and the stigma associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Charles suffered repeated concussions from numerous incidents on deployment.
“I was in vehicle rollovers, we ran into improvised explosive devices, I was in proximity of other explosions, and there were frequent percussions from artillery rounds,” Charles said.
Charles thinks he first noticed the effects of PTSD back in 2007. Trying to manage anger, anxiety, flashbacks, and sleep issues impacted him daily. About a year ago, Charles discovered WWP and learned he could register and benefit from its free programs and services, even though he was still active in the military.
This year, Charles attended an outdoor, multi-day rehabilitative mental health workshop called Project Odyssey®. This WWP program brings warriors like Charles together to learn from WWP staff, specially trained counselors, and one another in safe, private environments where they can express themselves and share their combat experiences. During Project Odyssey, Charles spent one-on-one time with a WWP staff member who told him about Warrior Care Network and how it could help with his symptoms.
“The biggest thing that appealed to me is the commitment,” Charles said. “Warrior Care Network is very thought-out. The best way to identify the right treatment is to understand what someone is going through, and Wounded Warrior Project does that. It is good to know what someone is dealing with to help get the best care. Anything I could do to get better, I was going to try.”
Warrior Care Network is a collaboration between WWP, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and four top academic medical centers: the Veterans Program at Emory Healthcare; the Road Home Program at Rush University Medical Center; Operation Mend at UCLA Health; and Home Base, a Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital program. Through this partnership, a warrior can seamlessly transition from VA treatment to one of these medical centers, and back to VA to ensure continual mental health care. Warrior Care Network provides world-class mental health care for warriors and their caregivers – creating new opportunities for veterans to live their lives to the fullest.
Charles described his treatment at Operation Mend as “hard-charging.”
“We worked on therapy all day, with just a break for lunch,” Charles said. “Individual cognitive training, group sessions, caregivers had their sessions, then more therapy with your caregiver. After all that, we took homework back to our rooms.”
Trained professionals led Charles and other warriors through intense therapy sessions to revisit the trauma that haunts them – and to learn new ways to cope.
“We learned new ways to think about and approach situations,” he said. “We don’t have to let PTSD define us. There are skills we can learn to reprogram our paths and be productive individuals.”
Therapy at the medical centers also involves other methods. Home Base provides online training courses for caregivers. Road Home and Emory’s Veterans Program offer immersion virtual reality where warriors relive their experiences through a virtual reality simulator – complete with the ground moving at their feet and smells that can trigger PTSD.
At Operation Mend, warriors partner with a host family – someone who helps the veteran feel comfortable while away from home for three weeks.
“My host family took me to Santa Monica and showed me around Hollywood. It was a good way to take a break from treatment,” Charles said.
“They asked questions about my life – but not to meddle, just to learn more about me.”
The families also help with another part of the Operation Mend program.
“Everyone gets a bear, handmade by your host family. It wears a uniform from your branch of service.”
Charles entered Warrior Care Network with a goal and said he is well on his way to achieving it. “I wanted to learn what I can do to get better. I want to have a productive life with the issues I have to deal with.”
Co-workers and family are already noticing a difference.
“I’m now a lot calmer and more mindful of myself,” Charles said. “Traffic used to heighten my rage, but through the program, I stop, take a breath, evaluate, and process the event.”
“No one is saying you are going to be cured, or you are never going to have a flashback,” he said. “What we’re trying to do in the program is to get your mind using a new skillset so PTSD doesn’t impact you to a point where you cannot be effective.”
Charles has a message for any warrior who is living with the symptoms of PTSD.
“You’re not alone. Every thought you have had about PTSD – every emotion, every doubt, every second-guessing thought that you are inept or not capable of being productive – every one of us going through this program has had those thoughts and feelings. There are people out there who are not put off by what you are dealing with – they are going to put in the work to help you get better.”
To learn more about how WWP’s programs and services connect, serve, and empower wounded warriors, visit https://newsroom.woundedwarriorproject.org.
Contact: Rob Louis – Public Relations
About Warrior Care Network (WCN)
Warrior Care Network® is a groundbreaking collaboration between Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) and its academic medical center partners, Emory Healthcare, Massachusetts General Hospital, Rush University Medical Center, and UCLA Health, to create a nationwide, comprehensive care network that will enhance access and provide clinical and family centered treatment to warriors suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI) and other related conditions. WCN will offer specialized clinical services through either a regionalized Outpatient Program (OP) and / or an innovative Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP). Through this cutting-edge initiative, WWP and its partners plan to serve thousands of wounded veterans and family members over the next three years.
About Wounded Warrior Project
We Connect, Serve, and Empower
The mission of Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) is to honor and empower Wounded Warriors. WWP connects wounded warriors and their families to valuable resources and one another, serves them through a variety of free programs and services, and empowers them to live life on their own terms. WWP is a national, nonpartisan organization headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida. To get involved and learn more, visit woundedwarriorproject.org.