In mid July the New River Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) hosted Jason Pratscher, an area outreach coordinator for the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP), as its guest speaker.
WWP is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to “honor and empower wounded warriors” who’ve incurred service-connected wounds, injuries or illness on or after Sept. 11, 2001. In military circles WWP’s legacy is legendary, but many in the general public may not be aware of the organization’s existence or impact.
WWP started in 2002 after several veterans and friends, motivated by accounts of the first wounded military members returning home from Afghanistan and Iraq, took steps to assist others in need. What initially began as an initiative to provide comfort items to the wounded has matured into a comprehensive rehabilitative venture that assists warriors in their recovery as they transition back into civilian life.
The overarching vision of WWP is to foster the most successful and well-adjusted generation of wounded servicemembers in America’s history. This is no small feat when considering the advancements in battlefield medicine and body armor. For every servicemember killed in WWI and WWII, roughly 1.7 wounded personnel survived. In today’s modern warfare, seven survive for every member killed. That’s impressive, but it means nearly 49,000 members have been physically injured since September 11, 2001; an estimated 400,000 live with invisible wounds such as depression and post-traumatic distress disorder; and 320,000 are estimated to have experienced a traumatic brain injury while in combat.
To achieve its vision, WWP uses a holistic approach when serving warriors and their families that focuses on four key areas: nurturing the mind through combat stress recovery and family support programs; strengthening the body through physical health and wellness; economic empowerment through campus support, academic and vocational training and transition assistance; and through engagement with peer-mentors, a benefits and resource center and interacting with fellow alumni. All WWP programs are free to eligible wounded warriors and according to Pratscher, 1,185 warriors are enrolled in North Carolina. However, for every enrollee another three are eligible for WWP’s services, but are not yet enrolled.
Pratscher, himself a wounded warrior, was medically retired from the Army prior to joining WWP. He and his service dog “Libby” cover the states of North and South Carolina from his office in Fayetteville, and he assists in Tennessee and Kentucky when needed.
Pratscher’s journey to the High Country began several weeks ago with Barbara Sears’ decision to donate several pieces of medical equipment used by her recently deceased husband, USN Rear Admiral-Ret Scott Sears, to WWP. Among the donated items was a high-tech wheelchair that Pratscher re-directed to a severely disabled Marine within 24 hours of receipt. After meeting Pratscher, an invitation was extended for him to come and speak to the New River Chapter where Rear Admiral-Ret Sears was both a founding and charter member. Admiral Sears’ wife, Barbara, and his mother, Margaret, are also Chapter members.
If you know of any veteran who has sustained a service-connected wound, injury or illness since Sept. 11, 2001, please have them contact Jason Pratscher at (910) 487-0116. If you’d like to learn more about the Wounded Warrior Project or want to make a donation, visit their website: http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/. To learn more about the MOAA New River Chapter, visit the Chapter website: http://www.newrivermoaa.org/, or call Colonel-Ret Ken Lynn, (336) 877-2279. MOAA is the nation’s largest and most influential association of active duty, National Guard, Reserve, retired and former military officers and their families and survivors and is an independent, nonprofit and politically nonpartisan organization.
Ken Lynn is a retired USAF colonel. He’s an adjunct online instructor with the USAF Air University and serves as the MOAA New River Chapter secretary/treasurer.