The holidays are a joyous time for most, but can be lonely for some servicemembers. Those serving far from their families, even stateside, can feel disconnected from the usual high spirits of the season. The Wounded Warrior Program recognizes the hardships this can cause on some servicemembers and their families and aims to keep the holiday season happy and bright for those who continue to give for their country.
"In years passed, the holidays would come, the family would visit their servicemember in the hospital or wherever they were, and then leave," said Gary Simpson, program manager for the Naval District Washington wounded warrior employment program human resources office. "Then this feeling of 'woe is me' would start to set in after the family left."
Simpson explained that being separated from one's family can take a toll on wounded warriors during their treatment and transition periods, and the Wounded Warrior Program has taken that in to consideration.
"Now we realize that those feelings can happen any time that you're separated from family, but especially around the holidays, “ said Simpson. ”So we have 'caregiver' funds set aside for family members to come and spend an extended period of time with their wounded warriors and assist that servicemember. You can instantly tell the difference having this kind of support has on our wounded warriors. It helps in getting that person's health going in the right direction a lot quicker because you get over the 'woe is me' in a hurry when your wife or husband shoes up with your kids."
Simpson said that in the past, a wounded or injured servicemember might be visited by family around the holidays, but would usually leave shortly thereafter, leaving a void in the individuals day-to-day life.
"With this more holistic approach to treatment, the sky is the limit," said Simpson.
Other programs are also available to wounded warriors and their families so that they can both give and receive during the holiday season.
"Some people may wish to provide long-term assistance through Navy Wounded Warrior - Safe Harbor's Anchor Program, and act as a mentor to transitioned Sailors and Coast Guardsmen," said Dario Santana, family programs and charitable resource coordinator for Navy Wounded Warrior-Safe Harbor. He added that other organizations that provide support to wounded warriors and their families include the Red Cross, Toys for Tots, the Operation Homefront and Dollar Tree Holiday Toy Drive Collection, and the Fisher House Foundation.
"There are many rewarding activities involved in these programs, from collecting and handing out toys to children, to providing comfort kits to wounded warriors, to bringing meals to military families," said Santana. "These programs make a measurable difference in the daily lives of our service members."
Santana said that by incorporating the family and including a community spirit, the servicemember's experience in the Wounded Warrior Program keeps the holiday season a happy one for all involved.
"The majority of wounded warriors will say that spending time with their families is essential to their recovery during the holidays," said Santana. "By providing support, people can help them establish and maintain a healing environment."
For more information on the Wounded Warrior Project, visit http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/.
For more information on the Navy Wounded Warrior-Safe Harbor Anchor Program, visit http://safeharbor.navylive.dodlive.mil/transition/anchor-program/.
For information on other holiday programs, visit:
Toys for Tots
Operation Homefront and Dollar Tree Launches Holiday Toy Drive Collection http://www.operationhomefront.net/Holiday Toys/
Fisher House Foundation