Thursday, January 31, 2013

Ideas to Make the Big Game even Bigger

There will be a winner and a loser.  Millions will watch and pounds of food will be eaten.  Yes, this Sunday is the "Big Game."

Want to make the game both fun and meaningful?  Why not ask your party guests or fellow party goers to join you in supporting Hope For The Warriors®

Here is the idea:

Each time either team scores, everyone throws a dollar in a hat.  At the end of the game, donate the money to Hope For The Warriors® and help us restore hope to the real heroes.

Want to make it more interesting?  Here are some ideas to add on:
  • $1 for every official review
  • $1 for an interception
  • $5 if your team sacks the quarterback
  • $5 if an interception leads to a touchdown for your team

And don't forget the half time show:
  • $1 for each costume change from Beyonce
  • $5 for each time the announcers mention the half time show from Janet Jackson

You get the idea....

Hope For The Warriors® thanks everyone for their continued support.  You know who the real heroes are in this country.  They are the reason we can safely enjoy these games.

Whether you are a Ravens or 49ers fan, have a great day.  Go Warriors!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Together Again: Outdoor Adventures

Four men deployed to Afghanistan together. 

Remote base located in the mountains of Afghanistan

As with most combat deployments, these men formed close bonds that will last a lifetime.

Hope For The Warriors® recently organized a hunting trip for these four men so they were able to reunite for a weekend in the great outdoors.  The weekend was successful in many ways.  First, each returned home with a buck.  But more importantly, they reconnected with the men that they depended on for so long while deployed and so far from home.

We were also glad to keep these men close to home.  The hunt took place on private property in Mississippi, home for three of these men.  They had been far from home long enough.

Two of the men shared:
"What an incredible experience! I would never be able to experience a hunting trip like that on my own, and getting to reunite with my deployment Army buddies made it that much more special.  Thank you Hope For The Warriors®!"
"Never in my 27 years of the military have I ever received such a gift.  It was truly a hunt of a lifetime."
Warriors with Ronnie "Cuz" Strickland of Mossy Oak
Hope For The Warriors® thanks Mossy Oak and Greif, Inc. for hosting the warriors.  Without their help, this hunt would not have been possible.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Band of Brothers

In 2001, HBO® aired the miniseries Band of Brothers—the story of Easy Company of the US Army 101st Airborne division and their mission during World War II.  The series showed the strength of ordinary men as they banned together in combat.  It was loved by viewers and critics alike. 

Combat makes for strong and lasting friendships still today.  There is a shared history, a common goal, and an understanding among those who have been in combat together.  Even those who do not serve together will connect—by branch, military base, and by command.

Hope For The Warriors® is fortunate to welcome Bill Nelson to our Board of Directors; Bill had previously sat on our Advisory Council.  At the end of 2012, Bill retired as chairman and CEO of HBO®.  Many years before Bill led HBO®, he was in the Army and in Vietnam.  During his time, he was in the 101st Airborne.
Bill in Vietnam

As Bill approached his retirement, staff members at HBO® agreed that the best way to honor his years of dedication to the company was by donating to a cause that he believed in—one that supported wounded service members, their families, and families of the fallen.  As Bill said goodbye to HBO®, the staff and the company made a donation to Hope For The Warriors® in his honor.

It is funny how connections are made.  The funds were donated for two programs—Spouse/Caregiver Scholarships and A Warrior’s Wish®.  We had one pending 2012 Wish that we did not have the budget to grant.  The soldier, Cory, submitted a Wish request for an ATV.  In combat, an IED exploded a few feet away from him.  The explosion had broken his pelvis, back, and left arm.  His left leg has been amputated above the knee and he struggles with traumatic brain injury and PTSD.

But what caught our attention was one particular line in his essay. 

“After almost nine years of service, I got the call to go to Iraq.  I had no problem with this because this was my job; this is what I signed up for.  I was ready, and I was going with the greatest unit in the world, the 101st Airborne out of Ft. Campbell, Kentucky.”

Admittedly, it doesn’t take much to get the Hope For The Warriors® staff excited.  But this connection, with both men serving the 101st Airborne, was more than we could have imagined.  We were excited to share the news with HBO® and Bill. 

Cory picks up the ATV
Granting this Wish will give Cory greater mobility outdoors.  He is a self-proclaimed outdoorsman who learned to hunt and fish at an early age.  He caught his first fish at the age of five.

But granting this Wish has given Cory more than just increased mobility.  It also gives Cory the ability to build a relationship with his children.  Time in the Army is generally time away from family; Cory wants to make up for that time.

“I have a second chance at life and a second chance with my family.  I do not want to waste it because I do not feel comfortable leaving the house.  I am young and otherwise in good health and want the opportunity to teach my children my love of nature and the outdoors. “

A Wish that was granted as a wonderful bond between “brothers”—one veteran helping another—will lead to a wonderful family bond.
The Family enjoys the new ATV
Thank you to Bill for his dedication to fellow veterans and to HBO® for their continued support and generosity.  Hope For The Warriors® was proud to grant this Wish and help this hero from the 101st Airborne.

Thank you also to Kevin Powell Motorsports in Greensboro for their help in granting this Wish.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Above & Beyond Volunteer Feedback

Last week, the Above & Beyond Seminar was highlighted in a blog posting, recapping our visit to Twentynine Palms, California.  Hope For The Warriors® will host several Above & Beyond Seminars throughout 2013.  These seminars provide guidance to wounded service members pursuing reintegration into the civilian sector. 

One of our volunteers was both a Human Resources professional and the wife of a service member. Her experience in both areas gave her additional insight into the challenges faced by service members as they plan their transition. 

She shares:

“I greatly enjoyed my volunteer time with these heroes and hope that I was able to contribute something that will benefit them as they transition into civilian life.  The talent and experience that Hope For The Warriors® was able to bring together in this four-day seminar has definitely paved the path for success for its participants.  I was proud to be a part of it and would love to again the next time this event is brought locally.”

To read more about the seminar, read the entire blog posting or visit our website.  If you are interested in volunteering with this program, please e-mail Connie Morinello.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Team Blog: Testimonial

Did you know that Team Hope For The Warriors® has its own blog?  The blog does a great job getting the word out to Team member with upcoming races, training tips, fundraising ideas and more. If you are on the Team, might want to be on the Team or just enjoy running, head over to that blog for information and inspiration.

Yesterday's post was especially inspiring.  A wounded veteran shared a personal testimonial of how Team Hope For The Warriors® helped him when he was first wounded and was depressed about his future.  It is a wonderful, personal account of how Hope For The Warriors® helps service members from the very beginning.

This particular service member has a severely wounded hand, but his injuries have not stopped him from the physical activities that he loves.  The best sentence of his testimonial was the last sentence:

"No longer am I concerned with the challenges that come along with not having two fully functional hands because I know if I ever need one, Hope For The Warriors® will be there to lend me one."

Read more here.

John at the Warrior Games last year

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Above & Beyond Program: 29 Palms Edition

An executive from Lockheed Martin discusses job opportunities with the group

The Above & Beyond Program provides guidance to wounded service members pursuing reintegration into the civilian sector. The objective is to explore "next step" options for those interested in a civilian or military career, higher education/advanced training, or a small business startup.

Mayfield College in Twentynine Palms, California invited Hope For The Warriors® to host an Above & Beyond Seminar.  With their overwhelming support and donation of space, our team was able to host 14 service members and two spouses for the four-day seminar. 

The seminar included group presentations, group workshops, and one-on-one coaching.  Participants built their resume and honed their interview skills.  Presenters came from top corporations, government agencies, and more. 

Volunteers work one-on-one with participants

To build a team of presenters and volunteers, Hope For The Warriors® reached out to the community of supporters that we have developed in southern California.  Twentynine Palms is located in the middle of the Mojave Desert.  It is the home of the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center and Joshua Tree National Park.  Although there are thousands of military families located in the area, there are not as many corporate headquarters in the near vicinity.  Due to the location, many of our presenters traveled three hours to give a 30-minute presentation.

Each presented was happy to do this drive.  The Above & Beyond Program would not have been successful had it not been for these dedicated volunteers.  Hope For The Warriors® is thankful for each person's efforts in making the seminar a success.

Staff Member, MSgt Brian Schiller, USMC (Ret.), presents to the group

The Above & Beyond Program and Hope For The Warriors® is working closely with the Wounded Warrior Battalion West by holding seminars at each of their Wounded Warrior Battalions.  We will host our next seminar in March in Hawaii followed by Camp Pendleton in June and Balboa (San Diego) in September.  If you are a wounded service member stationed in those areas or if you live in those areas and are interested in volunteering, please contact Connie Morinello for more information.

Although remote, 29Palms provided staff with some scenic views

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Sailing Clinics

Photo courtesy of

We have already posted in this blog about the benefits that some of our service members have gained from sailing.  Ronnie Simpson was the recipient of  A Warrior's Wish® back in 2010 and competed in a sailing race across the Pacific Ocean.  He returned to that same race in 2012 and is now an avid sailor.

Ronnie is also giving back to the wounded community.  In 2013, he will host four sailing clinics throughout the country.  Ronnie is confident that he can teach anyone the skills of sailing, regardless of experience or injury.  We have also highlighted a wounded Marine, a double amputee, who attended one of his clinics last year and now enjoys the mobility and freedom of the open water.  (Read that posting.)

Visit our webpage to learn more about sailing clinics, speaking engagements for Ronnie and another veteran Don, or to donate to this worthy program.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Yoga Therapy: Working with PTSD

Today's blog posting was submitted by Denise Olsen, owner of Strong and Soulful Yoga.  Denise is a yoga therapist that works with the Family Reintegration Program.  The program supports the spouses, children and parents of service members who are struggling with PTSD.  She shares how yoga is used to help families recover from these wounds:

The literal meaning in Vedic Sanskrit of the word yoga is “to add,” “to join,” and “to unite.”  Marriage is also a joining or a union.  Both words conjure up thoughts of sacredness, commitment, joy and fulfillment. 

Deployments, combat, and PTSD all cause significant stress on a marriage and the family.  The scars of war are not only found amongst those that have served, they are also evident in all those that love them.  The Family Reintegration Program managed by Hope For The Warriors® and HolliswoodHospital address these issues in a comprehensive and holistic manner.  Traditional treatments are enhanced by methods such as yoga therapy.

As the yoga therapist, my goal is to offer space for connection, emotional release and relaxation, all accomplished through the breath and the movement of the body.   When working with a group of spouses, my focus is solely on encouraging self-care and mindfulness.   It is a time for honoring yourself - your body, your mind, your spirit. Spouses who are also in the role of caretaker tend to put their own needs last. 

"You can’t give away what you don’t have.  Self-care is vital."

It is also a time to recognize that you are not alone - there are others that are experiencing the same fears, angers and frustrations as you. 

When working with couples, verbal and nonverbal communication is encouraged through shared movement. The poses often require simultaneous but opposing movement accomplished only through communication and trust.  Synchronicity in the breath is also utilized as a tool for connecting on an unspoken level.

"It allows for vulnerability, for insecurity to be replaced by trust,
courage and a sense of teamwork." 

When working with families, the yoga session is geared for all to participate in a period of connection. It is a shared, non-threatening experience with everyone on the same level - again fostering a feeling of support and teamwork. In all scenarios, it is intimate and powerful.    

Intense therapy causes emotions to be exposed and raw which also take a physical toll.   The body is tense.  The mind is racing.  The heart wavers from heaviness to the excitement and hope for a new normal.  When we join together on our yoga mats - we are able to release this and refill.  We are able to become centered and focused on the possibilities rather than the problems.  We become co-creators in our lives, not just spectators waiting for someone else to make the first move. 


"Although I have never walked a day in the shoes of a military spouse/family member,
we do find common ground in loss."

Family members grieve the loss of the person who left for combat because the person who returns is not the same.  Establishing a “new normal” is often accompanied by fear, anger and resentment which then cause guilt.  I have felt all of these things.  I share my story of being a 9/11 widow. I speak openly about it and encourage each person to do the same.  

We then close our eyes and focus on our breath - our life force.  As we exhale, we release emotions and create space in our mind and hearts. When we inhale, we are filled with positive energy and hope.  Focusing on the breath allows us to be present. Anxiety is created when we spend too much time in the past or worry too much about the future. 


We then float into the physical movement.  It is a slow, deliberate stretching and opening.  I focus on the areas most affected by stress - the neck, shoulders, hips and heart.  Opening these areas and releasing the physical tension leads to an emotional release as well.  We end the class with meditation and aromatherapy.  The silence and stillness allow the healing energy to be absorbed in the physical body and for the mind to rest.   Often, participants express a feeling of relief, relaxation and of being re-energized.   The feeling of chaos is lifted. 

"All of these feelings result in the ability to process clearly what has already been given in previous therapy sessions and creates space for forward movement in the upcoming treatments."

Yoga therapy makes the intensive therapy more bearable and more effective.  It offers a sense that there is a solution, there is a way to a brighter future, there is HOPE.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Testimonial: Family Reintegration Program

Provided by S Braswell, Stock.xchng

Today, a family member posted a review on Charity Navigator that demonstrates the importance of our Family Reintegration Program.  By sharing his testimonial, we hope that each of you gain a better understanding of the challenges faced by our military families.  We also encourage you to visit our Charity Navigator page and read the reviews and testimonials posted by service members, families, volunteers, donors and more.

"Our son served as a Marine in Afghanistan in 2010-2011. When he returned we knew that something had changed in him - while we expected this to some degree, we had no idea at the time how drastic the change would be. As the one year anniversary of his return approached, it was clear that he was suffering with PTSD and he was not getting better - in fact, he was getting worse. Normally outgoing, sensitive, with a great sense of humor - he was increasingly withdrawn, depressed and had started drinking heavily along with smoking pot - not normal behavior for him."

"As this crisis finally reached a breaking point, our son was admitted to Holliswood Hospital in summer 2012.  It was there that we first met a small group of people who specialized in treating PTSD in combat veterans - and we started to learn much more about PTSD. It was the first time that we became aware of Hope For The Warriors®. It was also the first time in over 1 year since our son's return that we encountered people who seemed to genuinely care for our son - and whose work and purpose was to help him - and to help us as his family.  It started with an offer of a hotel room and transportation - completely paid for. This extended into seemingly small things, such as offers for dinner and spa for our daughter-in-law (who of course was struggling along with us as she watched her husband - our son - suffering with PTSD). We were somewhat overwhelmed and humbled by this generosity."

"It is difficult to express the sense of relief that we felt as we realized that there were people (outside of our family) who cared about our son and about what we were experiencing as a family  - and who were actually doing something about it - working to reach out to us, offering to pay for hotel so that we could visit our son over a number of days, offering to pay for dinners and activities during that time, providing funds to help pay transportation costs, etc. These may seem like 'small' things, but they are much more than just a 'free' room and meal - Hope For The Warriors® conveyed a sense of genuine caring that we had not experienced before - and not just for our family - we saw them reaching out to other families who were experiencing the same struggles that we were - allowing us to realize more concretely that we were not alone in this."

"The impact of their efforts cannot be overstated. It really is difficult to express our gratitude for the work that Hope For The Warriors® is doing -- we have experienced it first hand as a family - and we know that there are many other families who have been blessed by their work - just as we have been."

If you have been assisted by Hope For The Warriors® or have seen our work firsthand, please consider writing a review of our organization on Charity Navigator.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Healing the Pain of PTSD Through Art

Art therapy is the therapeutic use of art making, within a professional relationship, by people who experience illness, trauma, or challenges in living, and by people who seek personal development. Through creating art and reflecting on the art products and processes, people can increase awareness of self and others cope with symptoms, stress, and traumatic experiences; enhance cognitive abilities; and enjoy the life-affirming pleasures of making art.   
~American Art Therapy Association

A relatively young profession, art therapy has experienced tremendous growth over the past decade, not only advancing treatment options, but more recently, advancing into different populations and treatment settings. In particular, art therapists have been working with a very special and unique population: the military. Military culture and protocol is rigid, disciplined, mission-focused and does not often leave room for creative, expressive opportunities. In contrast, the creative arts therapies are fluid, flexible, and expressive.

So, how did art therapy find its way into military mental health?

In the past ten years, two important medical and social trends have pushed art therapy to the forefront of trauma-focused treatment today. First, the field of neuroscience/neurobiology has virtually exploded in the past decade. Neurobiology, (specifically neurobiology of trauma - the biological study of the effects of trauma on the nervous system), and advances in medical technology now allow physicians, therapists, and scientists to literally see and understand what art therapists have known all along: creating (that is, art-making) can change the physical structure of the brain; and that potentially changes the way one thinks and feels. Creative arts therapists know through creating, whether through art, music, poetry, or drama, that traumatic memory can be readily accessed in a way that is less-threatening than traditional verbal therapies.

The capacity of the brain to change is called neuroplasticity.

Second, the extended military campaigns of OIF/OEF/OND have brought the realities of combat trauma square on the shoulders of our service members. This reality has reverberated to the medical community, and our military mental health services. Service members and medical and mental health treatment providers have demanded better practices in treating the physically and psychologically wounded, ill or injured veteran. Art therapy has become a viable option at military treatment facilities and has proven to reduce symptoms of combat stress, post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, anxiety, and depression.

The Family Reintegration Program, managed by Hope For The Warriors® and Holliswood Hospital, incorporates clinical art therapy into their work with service members and their families. In particular, a couple’s art therapy group with the goal of managing PTSD by improving couple communication skills. First, each participant works on their own as they draw what post-traumatic stress disorder looks and feels like to them. After completing their drawing, the art therapist guides each person to privately explain their art work to their spouse. Then as a couple, they explain their spouse’s drawing to the entire couples’ group. As the couples share their art work with each other and the entire group, identifiable themes often surface such as “feeling like a time-bomb just waiting to go off,” and “feeling backed into a dark corner, not knowing what to do.” The two drawings below are from a couples’ art therapy group.

In art therapy, creating art helps service members and their families talk about difficult topics such as anger, aggression, anxiety and depression. And for many service members, nonverbal expression of memories, feelings and thoughts to others is a relief. The artwork provides a safe way to depict and confront recurrent nightmares, flashbacks and traumatic memory. Nonverbal expression in a safe treatment setting is a critical step in processing combat trauma. Neuroscience can now prove what art therapists have always known--art therapy works. Art therapy was introduced into military treatment facilities because it is effective treatment for our service men and women who have experienced the trauma of war. Service members are learning that to overcome their combat trauma, they will need new communication skills. Through art, many are taking that first step.

Blog submitted by Tricia Winklosky, Clinical Health & Wellness Director with Hope For The Warriors®.  Tricia has a Master of Science in Art Psychotherapy from Eastern Virginia Medical School and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Art Therapy from Seton Hill University. She has been a volunteer with Hope For The Warriors® since 2006, the beginning of the organization. She is a spouse of a United States Marine.


Monday, January 7, 2013

Holiday Giving--Christmas Magic!

In December, Hope For The Warriors® helped families have a good holiday with our Holiday Giving Program. One woman in New Jersey used her store to unite the community and provide gifts, clothing and more for two military families.  She shares her story with us today:

I love Christmas.
I love everything about it.
But mostly what I love is the Magic of Christmas.
Of course you need an open heart to experience the Magic of Christmas.
It also doesn't hurt to have a little gift shop and many customers who also believe in and love
the Magic of Christmas.

This Christmas was full of magic for us and we shared that magic with two wonderful military families. Every Christmas starts out with hope. When we're children of course the hope is that Santa will bring your most desired toy. And when we are adults/parents our hope is that we will be in the position to make some Christmas magic happen for our children.  So for the past four years, I use the opportunity that I am afforded by having the little gift shop to put together some loving families in need with some loving customers. And there you have it, Christmas Magic!

It is always rewarding and fulfilling to help families that may need a little assistance at the moment.  I am not exaggerating when I tell you how incredible we all felt by helping our Christmas families from Hope For The Warriors®. To say thank you for their service is one thing but to show thanks puts it on a whole other level! I saw extraordinary acts of kindness!!!  Of course there were the toys from the toy lists bought, the requests for winter coats and new tennis shoes filled and the Christmas dinner provided.  But what was unexpected was the utility bill that was paid and a job found!!!! It is more than safe to say that while our military friends and families have chosen to have been "the best that they could be", they really brought out in us the best that we all could be. Like I said Christmas Magic.

Try it.  Throw out a brilliant idea like helping one of our heroes and see how bright the world shines back on you.  Thank you Hope For The Warriors® for allowing us to help.
Thank you to Rosie and to all of her customers and neighbors in Seaville, New Jersey.  And thank you to everyone else who helped our military families have a wonderful holiday.  Visit to learn how military families can be assisted all year round.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy New Year!

Once again, Hope For The Warriors® invited wounded service members, their families and Gold Star families to New York City for a memorable end of the year trip.  The highlight of the trip is New Year's Eve in Times Square.

With the amazing help of the NYPD, our families were escorted into a special area for the festivities.  The NYPD kept our families safe and helped our combat wounded service members who need some buffer from loud noises and crowds.

We invited combat wounded service members and Gold Star families from the military medical centers in Washington DC, from the Wounded Warrior Battalion East at Camp Lejeune, and across the globe.  One service member returned from Afghanistan to Okinawa, Japan and then quickly hopped on a plane and joined us in the same day.  Families from the New York and New Jersey area also joined our group.  All together, we had more than 100 people.

We can't think of a better way to ring in the New Year than with the families that we care so much about. On their behalf, we thank each of you for your support in 2012.  We have a lot of work to accomplish in 2013.  We hope that you will join us!