Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Surprise Hunting Trip

The weekend came with a big surprise. 

Wounded service member, SPC Lance Gieselmann, USA, was invited to join Hope For The Warriors® at this year's Buckmaster's Expo, held in Montgomery, Alabama.  For a man who grew up hunting, the expo alone was exciting.  He met many of the people that he sees on his favorite TV hunting shows.  In the above photo we see him with Jackie Bushman, founder of Buckmasters and star of The Jackie Bushman Show.

The big surprise however was the reason that Lance was on stage and reading the letter.  He has been invited to the next Classic Life Hunt, a weekend long hunting trip that is hosted by Jackie himself.  Each year, Jackie invites wounded service members to attend this hunting trip with him. This is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity for someone who loves the great outdoors.

Lance with the Bone Collectors

Hope For The Warriors® was excited to invite Lance to the Buckmaster's Expo as part of our Outdoor Adventures Program.  The program provides adaptive opportunities for wounded heroes to participate in sporting activities in the great outdoors.  Thank you to Buckmasters for making this opportunity possible for service members.

And Lance's reaction?  We are proud to share his words:

I want to personally thank...Hope For The Warriors®. You were professional, personable, more than accommodating, warm, and caring towards me and my wife. Unless you have rolled in my chair or suffered like I did and still do, no one will ever know how much being picked over so many more deserving soldiers means to me. I had few words the other night because it is still overwhelming to grasp. Shock, honor, blessing, grateful are just a few words that have been running through my mind since I left the stage.

Hope For The Warriors® has made me feel proud to be a veteran again. That what I did and what I sacrificed mattered to more than just my family. That the organization "gets it". They really understand how important it is for us broken, beat up warriors to get back in the woods and pick up where we left off before war changed us. And to get in the woods with a hunting icon, it's an indescribable feeling of honor, that people think enough of you to grant you the opportunity to do something like this. It has been a prayer request of mine for a long time, and for a long time, I never thought it would be answered.

I am honored to be selected, I'm blessed to be in such good company with Hope For The Warriors®, I'm grateful to have met you, and shocked that I didn't have some kind of stroke or mild heart attack when I read that letter on stage.

To learn more about the Outdoor Adventures Program, visit the Program Web Page.  To contact the director for outdoor opportunities, e-mail

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Mother's Day Wish-Update

Veteran with his wife, parents and service dog

Hope For The Warriors® is always quick to highlight that we do more than just assist wounded service members, we also assist their families. By including family members, we recognize the personal sacrifices that families have also made.  The family serves alongside their son or daughter, husband or wife, mother or father.

In honor of Mother's Day, we posted a story on this blog about a wounded service member, his Mother and A Warrior's Wish® to go on a trip with his family.  His mother, always supportive throughout the years, was now struggling with cancer.

A Warrior's Wish® Program supports the long-term goal of hope beyond recovery through financial grants.  These Wishes fulfill a desire for a better quality of life or support a quest for life-gratifying endeavors.  Knowing that Wishes can come true directly affects service members' spirits in addition to the families and communities that support them.  Whether realizing a dream to sail, ride a bike again, or own a home adapted to specialized needs, Hope For The Warriors® honors the goals and desires of wounded service members and their families.

We are happy to share that this family has returned from their trip.  The mother's health continues to be a concern for this veteran.  However, by granting this Wish, he will always have this wonderful family time to reflect on in the next months and years. 

Hope For The Warriors® was proud to grant this Wish.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to this family as they continue to meet their challenges together.

Visit the A Warrior's Wish® Program web page to learn more about the Wish program and to read other inspiring Wishes that Hope For The Warriors® has granted.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Family Picnic at Walter Reed

Steve Azar mingles with Military Families

Last week, Hope For The Warriors® hosted a Family Picnic at Walter Reed Military Medical Center.  This family event is part of our efforts to provide Hope & Morale to families as they undergo the long process of rehabilitation.  For most, the medical center is far from their families and friends.  Hope For The Warriors® was glad to introduce them to our family and provide support and assistance in whatever area they need.

We were joined by some special guests too.  First, the crew from the Rumble to the Rockies arrived at Walter Reed that day.  Up to that point, the five members of the FDNY had already ridden more than 4,000 miles on their Harleys in an effort to raise funds and awareness of Hope For The Warriors®.  Together, the five guys raised more than $18,000!!

They were joined by more than 20 other members of the FDNY.  Hope For The Warriors® is always thankful to this group--they have donated countless hours for wounded service members, military families and our organization.  We cannot thank this group enough!

Another guest was singer/songwriter Steve Azar. Steve performed several songs for the group including, Soldier Song, written to honor the service and sacrifices of military families. Beyond performing, Steve was also able to speak one-on-one with several of the service members.

Hope For The Warriors® thanks restaurant, Cafe Rio for sponsoring this event and providing food for all attendees. Cafe Rio has already donated more than $20,000 to Hope For The Warriors® in the form of financial and in-kind donations. They are truly devoted supporters to our military families!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Favorite Memory-Racing Again

"So often, people think that handcycles are only for service members who are amputees or paralyzed.  However, we have a number of service members who have wounds  that prevent them from running.  We talked to one service member who didn't think he would qualify for a handcycle and had resigned himself to no longer race.  At a local Run For The Warriors® event, we loaned him a handcycle and he entered the half marathon.  At the end of the race, he rolled to the where the other service members were waiting and after a pause, threw his arms up and shouted 'THAT WAS AWESOME!'  It was great to see the positive effect of the handcycle and the race."

Friday, August 10, 2012

Favorite Memory-New York Thank You

Photo Provided Courtesy of ONeil Campbell
"On September 11, 2001, firefighter Stephen Siller had just gotten off the late shift at Squad 1, Park Slope, Brooklyn.  He was on his way to play golf with his brothers when his scanner told of the first plane hitting the Twin Towers.  He returned to Squad 1 to get his gear and headed for the towers.  When Stephen drove his truck to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, it was already closed to traffic .  With sixty pounds of gear strapped to his back, he ran through the Tunnel, hoping to meet up with his own company, Squad 1." 

"Years later, Hope For The Warriors® and thousands of others run that same route.  A few years ago, I had the honor to join our group and a young Marine, Matt Bradford.  Matt is a blind, double amputee and through Team Hope For The Warriors®, he is able to race on a handcycle.  As I exited the tunnel, I found the line up of firefighters, holding banners with photos and the names of those lost on 9/11. Just as tears began to stream down my face, I heard Matt's voice coming up behind me. He was cheering with all his heart for the firefighters that gave the ultimate sacrifice with no thought of his sacrifices."

"I am so proud to be a small part of the organization that made it possible for him to experience this event and even more, allow the firefighters of New York to experience him."

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

What is Your Mission?

“When I got injured, my mission changed.”

Those are the first words spoken in the video that highlights Nathan Cruz, wounded Army Veteran and member of Team Hope For The Warriors®.  It is a sentiment that many service members and veterans can understand.  Injuries have changed career goals, future plans, hobbies and activities, family relationships and more.  These changes are often times unwanted and unwelcome.  Nathan however has utilized sports to bring positive changes. 

The video does a great job highlighting Nathan’s progress.  He served ten years in the Army, six years in Special Operations.  He was first injured while deployed and was sent back to the states.  Once stateside, he was hit by a car.  Along with his physical injuries, he struggles with the invisible wounds of PTSD.

Prior to his injuries, Nathan enjoyed biking.  Post-injury, he assumed that those days were behind him and he sold his bike. When he discovered handcycles, it gave him a great new focus. 

“The Three Amigos.”

Not only has handcycling given him a great activity for his physical and emotional rehabilitation, it has given him a new group of friends.  He handcycles regularly with two other wounded veterans.  They train together, they depend on each other, they understand each other.

Nathan has already completed a number of marathons and bike rides.  His list includes the ING Miami Marathon, West Palm Beach Marathon, Melborne Music Marathon, and a marathon in Bogota Colombia.  He has also completed two Soldier Rides (Boston and Tampa) and participated in the Warrior Games in both 2011 and 2012.  His injuries changed his mission, but he has utilized handcycling to make those changes positive.

Army 10-Miler 

Next up for Nathan is the Army 10-Miler in Washington D.C. in October.  As part of Team Hope For The Warriors®, Nathan and three other Special Operations veterans will compete in the race, representing Team Hope For The Warriors®.  Nathan continues to demonstrate that his injuries have changed his mission, but that new mission is a positive one.  Through his athletic events, Nathan is defined by his accomplishments, not his injuries.

Hope For The Warriors® is focused on our mission to restore self, family and hope to our wounded service members and military families.  Team Hope For The Warriors® is one program that helps us accomplish our mission.

YOU can support our mission, Nathan’s mission, and others.  Join Team Hope For The Warriors® and raise funds to support combat wounded service members and their families.  Join Nathan and the other Special Ops guys on our Team at the Army Ten-Miler.  We still have bibs left for this sold out race.  The fundraising requirement is low and easy to meet.

Nathan has a mission.  How about you?  

Learn more about joining the Team!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Family Reintegration Program--One Wife Shares Her Experience

Hope For The Warriors® has created the Family Reintegration Program with Holliswood Hospital in Queens, New York.  The Family Reintegration Program aims to, first and foremost, support wounded warriors and their families by engaging the warrior and their spouse/caregiver in a therapeutic experience that promotes family communication, recovery and resiliency.

Several family members have already attended the program and are experiencing the benefits at home and within their relationships.  One spouse shared her story below:

The Family Reintegration Program at Holliswood Hospital was a fantastic opportunity and one that I believe all families living with someone with PTSD/TBI should experience.  I participated in the program during my husband’s second stay at Holliswood. 

First Treatment
The first time my husband was a patient at Holliswood, I spoke to him often and he would tell me about how he was feeling.  However, I spoke to the counselors only twice during his 30-day stay and I didn’t really feel connected to his treatment.  It was still “his problem” and he was responsible for fixing it. 

Returning to Treatment
Nine months later, he was readmitted to Holliswood in the Military Wellness Program.  This time, my husband returned with a renewed sense of hope and commitment to getting well. 

Aynisa, the coordinator of the Military Wellness Program contacted me, to see if I was interested in accompanying my husband to his intake and then staying for a few extra days for the Family Reintegration Program.  All travel expenses would be covered by Hope For The Warriors®.  In addition, respite activities for the spouses would also be planned.  I enthusiastically accepted the invitation because I wanted to meet the people that would be treating my husband and have the opportunity to interact with other spouses and family members of wounded veterans.

"Living with someone with PTSD can be extremely isolating and lonely. People don’t understand why my husband doesn’t like to leave the house or has problems interacting with people in public or has extreme road rage at times.  I am too tired to always explain it, so it is easier to socialize with women who know how I feel."

Treatment for the Family
On the second day of the program, Aynisa provided a class to all of the spouses about PTSD, symptoms, and behaviors.  It was eye opening to hear that most of the veterans there experienced similar symptoms and behaved the same way.  It was comforting to know that I was not alone in my feelings about PTSD and the responsibilities that are associated with the injury.  During the program, I also had the opportunity to have two individual counseling sessions and two sessions with my husband. 

"I cried a lot because in the five years that we have dealt with my husband’s PTSD, I never felt that I could just release my sadness or frustration to someone that would understand and could help me deal with these feelings and learn to rebuild our life."

The Importance of Respite Activities
The respite activities provided by Hope For The Warriors® were great.  We visited areas of New York City and the outlying boroughs that I would not have known about if visiting alone.  The Hope For The Warriors® staff took us to dinner and to see the Broadway production of Mary Poppins.

 It was great to be able to go to dinner and to the theater without having to worry if my husband was going to be OK or determining where the closest exit or whether or not someone was going to irritate him. 
"It was an opportunity for me to enjoy my time without any other responsibilities.  It is an experience that I will forever be grateful to Hope For The Warriors®."
Home Again
Things now are by no means perfect.  My husband has really good days and bad days.  In the past, it always felt like bad days and really bad days. 

"My husband’s second stay at Holliswood was a new beginning for him and our marriage."

My husband finally accepted that he needs my help.  Whether it be to track his appointments, medications, or whatever he needs, he now knows that he can ask and doesn’t need to be ashamed.  He is committed to continuing his care with weekly therapy and staying current on his medications.  I don’t know if my husband will ever be out of the grips of PTSD, but after participating in the Military Wellness Program at Holliswood, he sees that there is hope and a future as long as he continues to work on his well-being and the well-being of our family.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Favorite Memory-Freedom in the Water

"Hope For The Warriors® brought 12 guys to Montgomery, Alabama a few years ago for the Bassmasters.  One day on the trip, we all went kayaking in the beautiful Coosa River.  Several of the warriors had challenges with their legs due to amputations, paralysis or other injuries. But in a kayak, each one of them had the same freedom of mobility.  All of our service members and veterans loved that kayak trip and despite the fact that they kept trying to tip us over, our staff had a great time too."

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

HOPE Week Honoree

HOPE is a word we use often within Hope For The Warriors®.  It is a part of our name and is included in our mission statement.  Hope drives our work and our goals.

Last week, the Morehead City Marlins Baseball Team hosted HOPE week.  For the team, HOPE stood for Helping Others Persevere and Excel and the team asked for nominees who would best represent HOPE in the community.

Paul Kelly was proud to nominate his wfie Sally for this honor.  Sally and Paul are long-time volunteers of our organization. Their support began in 2006 and together, they have done so much to help us grow.  They have been a great asset and great friends.

Sally's work with Hope For The Warriors® is not the only reason that she was honored on Saturday night at the Marlin's baseball field. However, we are very thankful that her good work was recognized.  Below is part of the application that was submitted. (Edited)

A Beacon of Hope

"A mother, wife, friend, volunteer, teacher, leader and more.  Sally is a true 'Beacon of Hope' to all who surround her.  Her hard work helped her to raise two successful and moral sons while still volunteering within her community.  Her greatest work now benefits our military communities—specifically wounded, their families, and families of the fallen.  Sally has given hope and helps to thousands and inspires others to join in this mission."

"The daughter of a WWII-Bronze Star-decorated soldier, she understands the sacrifices of the military and their families.  Since 2008, she has volunteered countless hours with Hope For the Warriors®, a national nonprofit organization that assists combat wounded service members and their families.  She has been recognized as one of the organization’s top volunteers."

"Sally and her husband Paul have raised more than $48,000 in donations in their fundraising campaign they call '2008 Miles of Hope.'  She has also been recognized by the organization for her leadership within her women’s group, Beta Sigma Phi International.  Within her chapter, she has been the kindling spark beneath the group’s service project, 'Carolinas’ Torch of Hope,' which has so far brought in over $25,000 in donations from chapters around the world to Hope For The Warriors®."
"Sometimes Sally is a Beacon of Hope, by simply supporting others.  She is often at Hope For The Warriors® events and races, cheering on the runners and volunteering to make the event a success.  She has cheered for her own husband through countless marathons and half marathons as he pushes through on his handcycle."

"In 2011, she was not content to be on the sidelines. Sally decided to 'go the extra mile' for our Nation’s wounded by running the Marine Corps Marathon with Team Hope For The Warriors®.  Sally finished a HIGHLY respectable 30th in her age bracket in the largest amateur marathon in the world."

"Sally is truly a beacon of hope within our community.  Her tireless dedication to her community, her family, and above all, to the Nation’s wound heroes are an inspiration and example to all she meets."

Thank you to Sally for bringin HOPE to our nation's heroes and to Hope For The Warriors®.