Early one morning in October 2007, Navy Boatswain's Mate 1st Class Jim Castaneda suffered a stroke during muster aboard USS Tortuga (LSD 46). The stroke was entirely unexpected and, in a matter of moments, Castaneda's life was forever changed.
Shortly after arriving at Naval Medical Center San Diego for treatment, Castaneda was referred to Navy Wounded Warrior (NWW)Safe Harbor. His NWW Non-medical Care Manager helped his family navigate the various non-medical issues - from securing various payments and entitlements, to providing advice on a home application, to accessing Veterans Affairs benefitsthat threatened to distract from Castaneda's recovery.
"[NWW] is one of those programs that commands may have heard about but don't know too much about," said Castaneda. "But once they know what it does and how it helps families and severely injured Sailors they will appreciate it."
Indeed, only one-quarter of enlisted Sailors and less than one-half of naval officers are aware of Commander Navy Installations Command's Navy Wounded WarriorSafe Harbor program and the services it provides. Yet, it is among the most important resources available to Navy families.
Illness or injury can strike at any time. When they do, NWW can clear away the clutter and allow service members to focus on what's most importantgetting well.
NWW tailors support to each wounded warrior's recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration needs. It's team of experts addresses pay and personnel issues, child and youth care, transportation and housing needs, education and training benefits, and much more. The program's goal is to return wounded warriors to duty, but when that's not possible, it works collaboratively with federal agencies and partner organizations to ensure their successful reintegration back into their communities.
"NWW will address virtually any problem that surfaces during a wounded warrior's recovery process," said NWW director Capt. Steve Hall. "NWW Non-medical Care Managers provides enrollees a shoulder to lean on, a helping hand, an ear to listen and encouraging words. They act as advocates when service members need one most."
NWW enrollment is not limited to service members who have been wounded in combat operations or shipboard and training accidents. It also is available to those affected by serious illnesslike Castanedaor liberty accidents.
November marks Warrior Care Month, a time to recognize wounded warriors, as well as their caregivers, for their service, sacrifices, and achievements. This year's theme, "Success through Transition," highlights the many ways wounded warriors and their families thrive after illness and injuryon active duty, on the playing field, in the classroom, or on the job.
This month, Adm. Cecil D. Haney, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, will host the first-ever Wounded Warrior Pacific Trials at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam and the University of Hawaii Nov. 12 - 17, 2012. More than 50 seriously wounded, ill and injured Sailors and Coast Guardsmen from across the countryincluding Castanedawill compete for a place on the 2013 Warrior Games Navy-Coast Guard team.
NWW encouraged Castaneda to get involved in adaptive athletics several years ago, and it has had a tremendously positive impact on his life. He says, "Everyone [competing in adaptive athletics] seems seven feet talllarger than life. I feel like superman. I can do anything now."
Sailors and their families are urged to take time during Warrior Care Month to honor and support our wounded warriors. They can refer a service member to the program who has experienced serious illness or injury by calling 855-NAVY WWP (628-9997).