Wounded Warrior Project offers unique help to the next generation veteran



The nature of the battlefield has changed and with it the wounds; more and more soldiers are coming home with injuries that are sometimes obvious but often unseen.

There have long been stories of the headshot soldiers that survive, but with advancements in battlefield medicine and body armor, an unprecedented percentage of service members are surviving severe wounds or injuries from the battlefield. For every U.S. soldier killed in World Wars I and II, according to Wounded Warrior Project estimates, 1.7 soldiers were wounded.

In Iraq and Afghanistan the numbers are quite different. For every US soldier killed, seven are wounded.

Combined, more than 48,000 servicemen and women have been physically wounded in the War on Terror.

That’s where the Wounded Warrior Project, and other non-profit veterans groups like it, come in to help.

In addition to the physical wounds, it is estimated as many as 400,000 service members live with the invisible wounds of war including combat-related stress, major depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Perhaps the newest angle on viewing battle wounds shows that another 320,000 service members are believed to have experienced a traumatic brain injury over there.

The Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) began back in 2002 in Roanoke, Virginia, when several veterans and friends, moved by stories of the first wounded service members returning home from Afghanistan and Iraq, took action to help others in need. Since that time, the organization has expanded and become a leading nationwide non-profit.

The group’s mission, aimed directly at military service members who incurred service-connected wounds, injuries, or illnesses on or after September 11, 2001, is straightforward: “The Wounded Warrior Project works to raise awareness and enlist the public’s aid for the needs of severely injured service men and women, to help severely injured service members aid and assist each other, and to provide unique, direct programs and services to meet their needs.”

One of the many unique aspects of WWP is the fact that those who incurred service related injuries or illness Post 9-11 are automatically eligible to be “alumni.”

“For WWP, there is a distinct difference between members and alumni; the term alumni indicates a mutual shared experience and denotes your place in an organization was earned,” the group’s website states. “There are no dues here – those were paid by wearing the uniform and on the battlefield.”

One such wounded warrior and project alum is Jeff Sinchak. Back in March, after less than a month on the job as Island County’s emergency services coordinator and with the full support of the community, he took a high-profile job as a Wounded Warrior Project spokesman.

“I still have that caregiver mentality,” he told the Whidbey News-Times at the time. “To me, there’s no better public service than to help those in uniform.”

Sinchak joined the Navy in July 1984 because he wanted a sense of purpose and adventure. What he found as a Hospital Corpsman and Navy diver was a deeper sense of duty to his country, fellow warriors, and to the needs of people around the world.

As a member of various Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Naval Special Warfare teams, Sinchak served in Operation Southern Watch (1993-94), Operation Restore Hope (1994-95), and Operation Iraqi Freedom (2003-04). Throughout it all, he suffered a number of service-connected injuries, including a gunshot wound, an arterial gas embolism, decompression sickness and two broken feet, one of which required several reconstructive surgical procedures.

Sinchak achieved the rank of Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman (Diver) during his 24-year career. His service took him to many parts of the world and included assignment as an Independent Duty Corpsman attached to the Coalition Military Assistance Training Team, where he established a combat medical treatment facility in Al Taji, Iraq, and treated those injured in combat. This facility continues to treat the injured and dying in Iraq today.

“Today, with my family, and fellow alumni of Wounded Warrior Project, I continue to manage the effects I experienced from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),” Sinchak wrote as part of an essay for what became his successful bid to announce the Seattle Seahawks’ 2012 fourth-round draft pick. “I credit my family, fellow warriors, and organizations like Wounded Warrior Project for helping me to evaluate the dark days of my trauma and move forward with my ‘new normal,’ giving me hope for tomorrow and the courage to continue caring for others.”

Another wounded warrior who epitomizes the success of the WWP is Justin Constantine, a Marine Corp major who was shot in the head in October 2006 and is featured as a spokesman on the group’s website.

“Even though I try not to, I still feel embarrassed and guilty about my injury,” Constantine says on the WWP website.

Constantine was on combat patrol near Habbaniyah, halfway between Fallujah and Ramadi, when a sniper’s bullet hit him behind his left ear.

“The corpsman on patrol saved my life,” Constantine says. “Without his rescue breathing and emergency tracheotomy, I would have died right there. The lance corporal rushed me through the war zone, risking his own life, to get me to the aid station.”

Constantine was immediately treated at the field hospitals at Al Taqaddum Airbase and Balad Air Base in Iraq. Afterward, he spent four days at Germany’s Landstuhl Regional Medical Center and almost five weeks at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland.

According to Constantine, he is about 75 percent recovered and now receives treatment at Johns Hopkins University. He currently works for the FBI on a counterterrorism team, serves on a Congressional task force for wounded warriors, and is in the process of applying for graduate school. He also tries to get in as much golf as he can, and he especially enjoys spending quality time with his wife, Dahlia.

Sinchak and Constantine are just two of the thousands of veterans being helped by the WWP. They, in turn, of course, are helping the organization and their fellow wounded warriors to thrive. The organization offers various programs to help veterans be successful physically and mentally. In addition, education and job training assistance programs are also offered along with peer mentoring.

The WWP program base is wide ranging and evolving in order to meet the evolving needs of wounded warriors and their families. Alumni sporting events, educational sessions, personal and professional development summits and recreational activities are offered throughout the year. The WWP also places an emphasis on helping others as part of the healing process and alumni get the chance to support activities and events for newly injured service members.