Wounded Soldiers Work Hard and Play Hard at COAD/COAR Forum

By Emily Oehler, WTC Stratcom

AW2 COAD/COAR delegate, SFC Juanita Wilson is one of 30 wounded warriors who attended the COAD/COAR Forum night out at the Washington Wizards/Denver Nuggets NBA basketball game in Washington, DC, coordinated by various organizations including the American Red Cross.

I think most Americans think of the Red Cross during times of national disasters.  What they might not realize is that they also support wounded warriors. 

This week, the American Red Cross united several other wounded warrior supporters to provide a night out for the 30 delegates at the AW2 Continue on Active Duty/Continue on Active Reserve (COAD/COAR) Forum.  In coordination with the USO, Verizon Center/Qwest, and Washington Wizards, the delegates saw the Wizards take on the Denver Nuggets.

These Forum delegates are severely wounded and chose to continue to serve post injury.  They are in DC this week to work on updating some of the Army’s regulations that oversee warrior care.  As delegate SFC Juanita Wilson, a severely wounded active reservist, explained, “I’m here to pay it forward for the others who will follow behind me.”

A specific program of the Red Cross, the American Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, provides items of comfort to support the morale of wounded warriors and their Families while they recover at Walter Reed.  These items are contributed by the American public in monetary contributions or in-kind donations.  In fact, many of their corporate and community partners organize annual drives for items that are needed to support the program.  At Walter Reed, the American Red Cross Station provides referral services both on the base and in the community.  Plus, they work directly with hospital clinics to provide dependable volunteers. 

Recently the American Red Cross Station provided Legos to support the FORCE: mTBI program and worked with the Assistive Technology Specialist to provide an array of items, from computer speakers for a triple amputee taking classes online to Nintendo DS gaming systems with Brain Age software for wounded warriors working with therapists in the traumatic brain injury clinics.  Additional programs include: pet therapy, adaptive scuba diving, taxi vouchers, haircut and shave vouchers, and computer loaner programs.  Their goal is to provide support to the Walter Reed Medical Center community whenever they can. 

Assistant Station Manager Teri Ridley explained, “We, the staff and volunteers, become very attached to the patients.  I think the most important service we provide is our ‘broad shoulders.’  Some days I walk out of my office and I see staff, patients, and Families just sitting in our cramped office enjoying a cookie and cup of coffee—glad to be able to get away from the stress of watching their loved one recover.”  She added, “Usually our patient’s first outing includes a visit to the Red Cross office for Family members to introduce us to their son, daughter, or spouse.  We watch the ups and downs the Family members experience during the first few days or weeks here. Usually we share a few tears with them as well.  Best of all we share the joy with Families when their loved ones begin to recover.”

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