Empowerment Through Action

WBP Board Member Dave Parker

October 3, 2023

Many combat wounded veterans feel disconnected from our normal world.  They often have Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) from very violent nearby explosions, which create wounds that are typically not visible to most people.  But these TBI’s cause daily frustrations in cognitive ability, in addition to all the bodily injuries like broken backs, bones, ligaments and muscles that never healed completely.  Combine the physical wounds with Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) as a daily challenge, and you can begin to see how difficult it is for these vets to connect with others who cannot see or understand the extent of their scars and challenges, even when trying to do the most basic activities of daily living.

However, it’s amazing to see what happens when they have an opportunity to interact with fellow Purple Heart veterans.  A sense of calm arrives, and the old comradery is quickly rediscovered.  Good natured ribbing ensues (especially across the services), and you can see them ease into familiarity.  “I know they’ve got my back and I’ve got theirs” is a familiar quote as they explain how they don’t have to be on hyper alert that is required in their civilian world.

Mark described how this worked for him on his first Warrior Bonfire Program trip.  With the support of the group, he opened up by talking about his civilian life challenges and the group understood, encouraged and offered their own coping strategies.  He felt empowered to engage in activities that he would not do on his own such as sailing and stand-up paddle boarding.  He greatly enjoyed the opportunity to attend his first rodeo, “I’ve seen rodeos on TV but to be here in person is amazing!”  And he quietly shared remembrances of his fallen comrades at the bonfire.  In the end, he was extremely grateful for the opportunity to share and was looking forward to continuing these new relationships, feeling better about himself and going back to his family a bit stronger for them.