Blogging about Army Warrior Care Month

The Army has designated November as Warrior Care Month to inform wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers, Veterans, and their Families about the transition assistance programs available to them in the U.S. Army. Throughout the month, the Warrior Transition Command has been conducting a variety of local activities through AW2 and the Warrior Transition Units (WTUs) to encourage wounded warriors to take advantage of opportunities that promote successful transition back to duty or into civilian life.

On the American Forces Press Service’s (AFPS) Family Matters Blog, Elaine Wilson offered her perspective on the resiliency of Army wounded warriors:

The Army is using this opportunity to inform wounded, ill and injured soldiers and their families about transition assistance programs. The effort is being led by the Army’s Warrior Transition Command.

I’ve met countless wounded warriors and never cease to be in awe of their strength and resilience. I’m thrilled to see that the Army is going the extra mile to ease the transition process, whether it’s back to service or to the civilian work force, for these soldiers and their families.

Elaine blogged about one such Soldier that she met during a recent visit to Walter Reed Army Medical Center. During her visit, she had the pleasure of meeting AW2 Soldier SGT Robert Canine and his wife, Jennifer. SGT Canine lost his legs when an explosively formed projectile tore through his Humvee during his third deployment in Iraq. Elaine focuses her entry on the how the strength of SGT Canine’s marriage has aided in his rehabilitation:

While tough, the couple said they can weather any storm as long as they do it together.

The couple said it’s vital to stay positive and supportive of each other.

“Listen to what they have to say,” Jennifer said, referring to the wounded warrior. “You’re going to have your frustrated moments, but hopefully you’ll have your family there to take small breaks. They’re going to have their ups and downs. Just stay positive.”

“They’ll be some rough patches, but you have to keep moving forward,” Robert added. “If you think about woe is me, it will just take longer to recover. Take it day by day.”

To read the rest of this wonderful entry, please click here to visit the Family Matters Blog. Elaine plans to continue to follow SGT Canine and his wife with periodic updates on how they are doing, so be sure to check back often.

In addition to the blog entries from Elaine Wilson and the AFPS Family Matters Blog, the Ledger-Enquirer in Columbus, GA also featured an article about Army Warrior Care Month. In the article, the Ledger-Enquirer showcases the Warrior Care Month activities at Fort Benning:

“It’s specifically designed to build teamwork amongst soldiers that are not in a collective unit environment,” said Lt. Col. Sean Mulcahey, commander of the Warrior Transition Battalion.

The Commander’s Cup consists of 15 events including a seated basketball game, water polo and volleyball matches, a Nintendo Wii video game tournament and a cooking competition.

Prior to digging in to a hearty meal of turkey and all the trimmings, WTB soldiers went head to head Wednesday morning in an Iron Chef-like cook off. Maj. William Kepley’s team, B Company, 5th Platoon, beat out the other platoons in the battalion in the “taste” category for whipping up a stir fry.

“For the folks that are here for an extended period of time for whatever’s wrong with them it’s good,” Kepley said of events like the Commander’s Cup and Wednesday’s turkey lunch. “It gets your mind off of the hospital and doctors all daylong every day.”

To learn more about the Army’s Warrior Care Month, click here to visit the special page set up by the Warrior Transition Command.

Employing Veterans with Invisible Wounds

The Associated Press recently ran a great story highlighting the Army’s efforts to educate employers about hiring wounded warriors who have “invisible wounds” or behavioral health illnesses such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs). The article calls attention to the need for employers to make accommodations for Veterans with both visible and invisible wounds:

The Army’s Wounded Warrior Program, which helps veterans adjust to civilian life, has been reaching out to employers to educate them and encourage them to hire former soldiers with invisible wounds…

“Employers find it easier to accommodate those physical disabilities. They can get special equipment,” said Sue Maloney, who works with veterans in the Wounded Warrior Program in the Seattle area. But “you can’t always see the wounds or the injuries.”

The article shows some of the ways that employers can accommodate Veterans who have PTSD and TBIs through the example of Richard Martin, a 48-year-old engineer and former Army National Guard Major, who now works for Northrop Grumman. When Martin was hired, Northrop Grumman consulted occupational nurses on how to help him do his job. Martin also helped himself by using noise canceling headphones to keep him from getting distracted, sticky notes to remind him of things, and by placing a rearview mirror on his desk so he isn’t startled when co-workers come up behind him.

In addition to these accommodations, there are many others that employers can make to assist Veterans with “invisible wounds” to successfully transition to the civilian workforce. To learn more about the types of accommodations that employers can make, I talked with AW2 Career Coordinator Scott Cox in our headquarters about the topic.

“There are a number of accommodations that employers can easily make, at little to no cost, to assist Veterans with PTSD and TBIs,” said Scott Cox. “Most employers make these types of accommodations everyday for their existing workforce. Wounded Veterans bring a tremendous amount of experiences and skills that employers seek. Employers just need more information on how to support Veterans with invisible injuries.”

Scott Cox then shared a list of accommodations that employers can provide to assist Veterans with PTSD, TBIs, and other behavioral health issues from the Job Accommodation Network. Below are some of the highlights:

  • Provide space enclosures or a private space
  • Allow the employee to play soothing music using a headset
  • Divide large assignments into smaller goal oriented tasks or steps
  • Allow longer or more frequent work breaks as needed
  • Provide additional time to learn new responsibilities
  • Allow for time off for counseling
  • Give assignments, instructions, or training in writing or via e-mail
  • Provide detailed day-to-day guidance and feedback
  • Develop strategies to deal with problems before a crisis occurs
  • Allow employee to work from home part-time
  • Provide disability awareness training to coworkers and supervisors
  • Use stress management techniques to deal with frustration
  • Allow telephone calls during work hours to doctors and others for needed support
  • Provide a place for the employee to sleep during break
  • Provide straight shift or permanent schedule
  • Count one occurrence for all PTSD-related absences
  • Allow the employee to make up the time missed
  • Identify and remove environmental triggers such as particular smells or noises

For the complete list, click here to visit the Job Accommodation Network Web site.

As you can see, many of these accommodations aren’t all that different from those that employers already make for many employees in their workforce. However, it is important to remember that each case is different, as Scott Cox pointed out in our conversation, “Every wounded Veteran is different and the accommodations made should be tailored to that particular Veteran’s needs. AW2 works with employers to help ensure that the experience is rewarding for both the hiring organization and the Veteran.”

If you are an employer interested in hiring a Veteran with invisible wounds, please contact an AW2 Career  Coordinator via email at AW2careerprogram@conus.army.mil or call (703) 325-0579.

DoD Launches New Wounded Warrior Newsletter

The DoD Office of Wounded Warrior Care and Transition Policy (WWCTP) has launched a new e-newsletter called the The Square Deal. The name of the newsletter comes from a great quote by Theodore Roosevelt in which he said, “A man who is good enough to shed his blood for his country is good enough to be given a square deal afterwards.” The Square Deal aims to serve, support, and empower wounded warriors across the military by informing them of new DoD programs, policies, and benefits.

The first issue of The Square Deal features a letter from Noel Koch, the Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for the Office of Wounded Warrior Care and Transition Policy. In his letter, he expresses the importance of his office’s mission:

The WWCTP mission is to ensure America’s wounded, ill, and injured warriors receive the best care our Nation can provide, as well as seamless support as they transition back to active duty or on to separation from active service to Veteran status. The mission encompasses our sisters and brothers in the Reserve as well as Active Components, and their Families. Success in this vital mission will depend on proactive leadership, responsive policy, effective oversight, interagency collaboration, as well as the compassion and dedicated support of every member of the American Family.

The inaugural edition of The Square Deal also features updates about the modernization of the Transition Assistance Program, the creation of the Veterans Employment Initiative, and the expansion of the Disability Evaluation System Pilot program to six new sites.

To read The Square Deal click here to download the PDF from the Wounded Warrior Resource Center Web site. If you would like to receive The Square Deal via e-mail, please contact Sarah Moore at sarah.moore.ctr@osd.mil.

BG Cheek attends CODE Launch Event

BG Cheek, the Commander of the Warrior Transition Command, attended the launch event for Call of Duty Endowment (CODE) last week. CODE is a new endowment fund created by Activision Blizzard, which aims to combat unemployment among Veterans. Activision Blizzard created the endowment organization with a commitment to raise millions of dollars to help raise awareness of Veterans unemployment and directly fund organizations that support Veterans transitioning to the civilian workforce.

In a press release, Activision Blizzard stated that it created the endowment after recognizing that its Call of Duty Modern Warfare video game series is extremely popular among troops, and that it wanted to give back to servicemembers by using proceeds from the sale of an upcoming game to help Veterans find employment. The organization has an advisory board composed of Veterans representing various branches of the military and the board will help identify organizations that will receive grants to raise awareness of the issue.

BG Cheek attended the launch event for the organization and stressed the need to help Veterans transitioning from the service with employment opportunities according to the press release:

“I could make the case that based upon the service and sacrifice of our Veterans that American employers have their own call of duty to ensure they have the opportunity for gainful employment and a viable career,” Cheek said. “Our soldiers have a lot to offer: integrity, discipline, teamwork, and personal sacrifice for a greater good. I can think of no stronger candidates for any positions employers might be looking to fill. These brave men and women willingly put their lives on the line to protect the blessings of liberty enjoyed by every business in this great country of ours.”

CODE’s first grant of $125,000 was awarded to the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), which will be used by the organization to help underwrite the cost of a new PVA Vocational Rehabilitation Services Center in Boston, MA.

Click here to visit the new CODE Web site to learn more about this organization.

The appearance of external hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the United States Department of Defense of the linked web sites, or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) sites, the United States Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations.

Interview with AW2 Advocate Eric Mitchell

veterans-day-parade_eric_mitchell

AW2 Soldiers and Veterans participate in a Veterans Day parade that AW2 Advocate Eric Mitchell helped organize

The following is an interview that AW2 conducted with Colorado Springs-based AW2 Advocate Eric Mitchell. Eric spent 23 years in the Army, including 17 as an Army Career Counselor. Following his service, Eric worked at Fort Carson as a contractor working for the In-Service Transition program. He currently serves on a number of community-based boards and recently served on the selections board for the Colorado Technical University Wounded Warriors Scholarship Fund, which has awarded 87 scholarships to wounded warriors and their Families.

Tell us about Colorado Technical University’s programs for wounded warriors and their Families. What services and support does CTU offer?

The CTU Wounded Warrior Scholarships and Wounded Warrior Spouse Scholarships are full-ride scholarships that allow students to complete their next higher degree. All tuition and course materials are included in the scholarship. Each wounded warrior is given a new laptop computer, which they get to keep at the completion of their course work. Each student works closely with a student advisor to address any issues that may arise related to their recovery and their education. CTU shares the AW2 philosophy that recovering is the Soldier’s primary mission, and CTU works with the Soldier to help make going to school and getting their degree correspond with their primary mission. As an example, the Colorado Springs CTU campus has already implemented plans to provide individualized assistance to local students to ensure they are successful in their educational pursuits.

How did you get involved with CTU?

I have been a member of the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce, Military Affairs Council (MAC) for about five years. Two years ago, while at a MAC event, Greg Mitchell (President, CTU — Colorado Springs) provided an informational briefing about the CTU Wounded Warriors Scholarships. When I came to AW2, I made sure I became involved to make sure our AW2 Soldiers, Veterans and their Families had the best possible opportunity to apply for and win a scholarship. Over the last year, CTU has not only been working with AW2 to help Soldiers and Veterans with educational opportunities, but CTU had also been extremely generous in providing financial assistance to wounded warriors in need. CTU has included Advocates in their internal educational training workshops on working with wounded warriors who have PTSD, TBI, and other disabilities. CTU has also opened numerous doors with other organizations within the community to help our wounded warriors adjust to their new norms and be all that they can be. Greg and CTU have even provided funding for a specially designed “rugby wheelchair” for an AW2 Veteran of mine who is a quadriplegic and who is attempting to become a Paralympian.

What was meeting AW2 Soldier MAJ Tammy Duckworth like? What perspective did she bring to the process?

It was a great honor to meet Secretary Duckworth and her husband, MAJ Bryan W. Bowlsbey. During dinner, I was amazed at her spirit and her great sense of humor. Secretary Duckworth showed all of us that there is a full life after a very serious injury. Secretary Duckworth noticed my AW2 lapel pin, and we instantly connected. I was also fortunate to participate on the Wounded Warrior Scholarship Selection Board with Secretary Duckworth. Secretary Duckworth brought a no-nonsense professionalism to the committee, and she instilled a sense in each of us that we were about to change the lives of Soldiers, Veterans, and their Families forever. She stressed that we needed to ensure the scholarships went to not only those who were the most deserving, but to those who would be most impacted. Secretary Duckworth exemplifies the model that it is about ability, not disability. It was also an honor to meet Mrs. Marie Tillman, spouse of Army Ranger and former Arizona Cardinal, SGT Pat Tillman. Mrs. Tillman was the Chair of the Wounded Warrior Spouse Scholarship Committee, and she was a great asset to the CTU scholarship process.

How many AW2 Soldiers and Veterans have received scholarships from CTU?

CTU has awarded 87 scholarships to wounded servicemembers over the past two years. Soldiers, Marines, and Airmen have all been recipients of the scholarships. Over the last two years, 37 of the Wounded Warriors scholarships went to wounded Army servicemembers. In the past, locations like Walter Reed, BAMC, and Bethesda were the only sites that were able to apply for the scholarships. This year CTU made two major changes to their program. First, they expanded it to several locations with large wounded warrior populations. Second, they instituted a Wounded Warrior Spouse Scholarships program for the spouses of our wounded warriors. These scholarships will allow these spouses to get the education they need to support their Families. This year, AW2 Soldiers, Veterans, and Spouses received all 25 wounded warrior scholarships and all 25 wounded warrior spouse scholarships.

Can you share a personal story of how the CTU program has made an impact on an AW2 Soldier or Veteran’s life?

There would be 87 outstanding examples of how these Wounded Warrior Scholarships have affected Soldiers and Families. One of the best examples is of an AW2 Soldier, SSG Damien Wilson, from Fort Stewart, GA. SSG Wilson was injured in Baghdad, Iraq. While recovering at Walter Reed, he saw the CTU Scholarship Application and applied. SSG Wilson was subsequently awarded a scholarship for an associates degree in general studies. In March, I received notice that CTU was graduating their first graduate from the program, and I was asked to attend the graduation. I was informed CTU would be bringing the Soldier and his Family to Colorado Springs to attend the graduation. I worked with SSG Wilson’s AW2 Advocate, Nicholas Alexuk, to coordinate the event and I was honored to attend SSG Wilson’s graduation, as a representative of AW2 Advocate Alexuk and AW2. SSG Wilson’s underlying theme throughout the graduation activities was that he wanted to set an example for his children that even with his severe injuries, he was able to go to school and get a college education. SSG Wilson was recognized by the keynote speaker and the President of CTU while receiving three standing ovations during the ceremony. SSG Wilson is the first in his Family to get a college degree, and he is continuing his education to pursue a bachelor degree.

Are there any other opportunities in Colorado coming up that you would like to share with the AW2 community?

Colorado Springs and the State of Colorado are absolutely one of the greatest areas in the country in supporting our military, both active duty Soldiers and Veterans. Working from within the County Veterans Services Office in El Paso County, Colorado, I am able to not only support my Veteran population, but also reach out to local organizations who want to support our Soldiers and Families. There is seldom a day that goes by where there isn’t at least one organization that wants to provide support or assistance to our Soldiers or Veterans. I recently met with the United States Olympic Committee, U.S. Paralympics Division to expand the outreach within the wounded warrior population, the City of Colorado Springs, and the USOC.

For more information about CTU, visit http://www.coloradotech.edu/.

The appearance of external hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the United States Department of Defense of the linked web sites, or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) sites, the United States Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations.

Write a blog for AW2

AW2 Soldiers, Veterans, and Families can submit a blog for AW2 by emailing WarriorCareCommunications [at] conus.army.mil.