Wounded Warriors Introduced to Adaptive Athletics During Training Camp

Navy Wounded Warriors work on their sitting volleyball skills during the first adaptive athletics training camp of the year at Naval Base Ventura County (NBVC) on Jan. 17.

Navy Wounded Warriors work on their sitting volleyball skills during the first adaptive athletics training camp of the year at Naval Base Ventura County (NBVC) on Jan. 17.

More than 40 seriously wounded, ill and injured Sailors and Coast Guardsmen – including 20 first timers – traveled to Naval Base Ventura County (NBVC), California, Jan. 16 to participate in the first Navy Wounded Warrior – Safe Harbor (NWW) adaptive sports camp of the year.

The five-day camp introduced athletes to swimming, seated volleyball, wheelchair basketball, archery, shooting, and track and field.

“The NWW adaptive sports team is very excited to kick off the 2016 season,” said Navy Wounded Warrior – Safe Harbor Adaptive Sports and Recreation Lead Megan Haydel. “The camp athletes hope from here to go on to try out for our 2016 Warrior Games Navy team at our trials in Hawaii, Feb. 21-26.

“However, this event is about more than just sports,” continued Haydel. “These camps offer our recovering wounded, ill, and injured service members an opportunity to connect with their fellow injured Sailors and Coast Guardsmen. Many of them haven’t felt like they’ve been part of team since they were injured or became ill. Our adaptive sports program gives them a place to feel at home. Whether they are elite athletes in their sport or novices trying out for the first time, every one of them will be welcomed to the group and will be part of the NWW program for life.”

NWW coordinates the non-medical care of seriously wounded, ill and injured Sailors and Coast Guardsmen, and provides resources and support to their families. NWW offers individually-tailored assistance to ensure enrollees’ successful recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration.

Adaptive athletic reconditioning – athletic activities that are modified to meet abilities of injured or ill individuals – are an essential component of their recovery and rehabilitation plans. The proven benefits of adaptive athletics include greater self-esteem, lower stress levels, and fewer secondary medical conditions.

“I have always been an athlete for my entire life, and now since my injury, I can no longer play certain sports,” said Operations Specialist 3rd Class Melissa Klotz. “Participation in adaptive athletics is a way for me to have a quality of life and release from the miserable hole I was in. This is only the first day of camp and everyone here is super awesome. The coaches are really knowledgeable and friendly. I am looking forward to the rest of the week.”

Klotz suffered hip and traumatic brain (TBI) injuries when she fell during a training exercise on deployment. She had a complete hip replacement six months ago and she continues to suffer from nerve and muscle damage. She is a NWW enrollee currently stationed at Naval Station San Diego, and the recent camp was her first experience with adaptive athletics.

Musician 3rd Class Abbie Johnson, who is also attending her first camp, is currently stationed in Hawaii and suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

“Today went really well and I had a great time,” said Johnson. “I tried some sports that I was a little rusty on. It was good to do some reconditioning such as working on my sprinting as opposed to long distance running. I met a ton of great people today. Everyone here is so accepting, and it is nice to be in a place where we all understand each other. The coaches were really motivating. I want to make the Navy team for the Warrior Games, and I am going to give it my all! It is great to still feel like I am part of a team, especially since I am in the process of transitioning out of the Navy.

Brittany Jordan retired from the Navy last year. She is visually impaired and suffers from TBI.

“I love the camp, they have different things for everyone,” said Jordan. “The instructors here are amazing. They really care and want to help you. I came to camp because I needed to get off the couch and do something. I wanted to meet new people who are in my predicament and just have some fun. Since being here, I have met so many people from different backgrounds, and I am having a blast. During swimming, I was so blown away at how well I did. I am excited to continue participating in adaptive sports. It’s just great!”

Follow NWW at www.facebook.com/navywoundedwarrior, Twitter (@navywounded), and Instagram (Navy Wounded Warrior) for the latest news.

The first quarterly family newsletter for 2016 is here!

Please take time to read our first Wounded Warrior Family Newsletter for 2016. There’s some great information in this edition including CG SUPRT, peer-to-peer forums, Fleet and Family Support Center information, VA caregiver program update and a letter from our leadership!

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Wounded Warriors travel to NY City for an Invictus Games event with President George W. Bush

Nine seriously wounded, ill and injured athletes participated in a sitting volleyball demonstration and announcement of the Invictus Games Orlando 2016 onboard the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum Dec. 3, in New York City.

Retired Navy Aircrewman Brett Parks – a lower-leg amputee who was shot when he tried to stop an armed robbery in 2012 – and Retired Aviation Electrician Mate 3rd Class Michael Roggio – who was injured while on duty in 2009 – represented the Navy during the joint-service sitting volleyball demonstration. Parks and Roggio are enrolled in Navy Wounded Warrior (NWW)–Safe Harbor, the Navy’s wounded warrior support program.

President George W. Bush and Ken Fisher, chairman and chief executive officer of Invictus Games 2016, were met with great excitement when they arrived during the sitting volleyball demonstration on the ship’s flight deck. The wounded warrior athletes stopped the game to greet them with hugs and handshakes. Bush and Fisher then publicly announced that the former President will serve as honorary chair of Invictus Games Orlando 2016.

Additionally, the George W. Bush Institute and the Invictus Games 2016 will co-chair a policy symposium prior to the Games, which will take place May 8-12, 2016. The Dallas-based institute is launching a major initiative to address the invisible wounds of war, specifically traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress, to ensure veterans and caregivers seek and receive comprehensive care and reduce the stigma associated with these wounds.

“I have dedicated the rest of my life to honoring the service and sacrifice of the men and women with whom I served as Commander-in-Chief,” said Bush. “Those who wear their Nation’s uniform, some of whom have been overcome both visible and invisible injuries, deserve our support. I’m proud to serve as honorary chairman of the Invictus Games 2016, and to shine a spotlight on the unconquered spirit of these men and women, not just from the American team but from 15 Coalition nations.”

The Invictus Games Orlando 2016 will bring together more than 500 veteran competitors from 15 nations to compete in 10 adaptive sports: archery, cycling, indoor rowing, sitting volleyball, swimming, track and field, powerlifting, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby, and wheelchair tennis. The Games will shine a light on the healing power of adaptive sports for seriously wounded, ill, and injured service members. A number of seriously wounded, ill and injured Sailors are expected to compete on behalf of Team USA.

“The highlight today for me was President Bush. He is the reason why I joined the military. He gave the call out and I answered it. It meant a lot to me to be able to shake his hand and give him a hug. You can tell he genuinely cares about wounded warriors. It was a great event and a great day,” said Parks, an avid athlete who participated in Invictus Games 2014 in London.

“Today was a great day. It inspired me to keep pushing forward and pursue my dreams. Without the struggles, dreams wouldn’t be here. Dreams can become reality. I am pushing to make the U.S. team for Invictus Games 2016 and I hope to be a medalist,” said retired Army sergeant Robbie Gaupp.

During an assignment in the U.S. to support Operation Jumpstart, Gaupp shattered his right shoulder while assisting border patrol units along the Texas-Mexico border. After he was introduced to adaptive sports, he advanced to the Department of Defense Warrior Games, where he earned medals of every color. Gaupp was one of three soldiers to take part in the sitting volleyball demonstration and announcement.

The event was coordinated by NWW, which provides non-medical care to Sailors and Coast Guardsmen who are wounded in combat, diagnosed with serious illnesses, and injured in shipboard, training and liberty accidents. NWW is one of many quality of life programs for which Commander, Navy Installations Command is responsible.

Navy Installations Command is comprised of 70 installations under 11 regions with more than 52,000 military and civilian personnel who are focused on sustaining the fleet, enabling the fighter, and supporting Navy families worldwide. For more information about Navy shore installations, visit www.cnic.navy.mil. To learn more about the Invictus Games Orlando 2016, visit http://invictusgames2016.org/.

Retired Navy Aircrewman Brett Parks proudly shakes President George W. Bush's hand during an Invictus Games Orlando 2016 sitting volleyball demonstration and media announcement onboard the USS Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum on Dec. 3 in New York City.

Retired Navy Aircrewman Brett Parks proudly shakes President George W. Bush’s hand during an Invictus Games Orlando 2016 sitting volleyball demonstration and media announcement onboard the USS Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum on Dec. 3 in New York City.

Navy Wounded Warrior Shares Inspirational Story during Warrior Care Month

Warrior Care Month kicked off Nov. 1, and, throughout the month, wounded warriors are sharing their powerful stories. Aviation Electronics Technician Airman Elaine Outlaw – a wounded warrior battling a serious illness, who hails from Navy Region Southwest in San Diego – sat down with Navy Wounded Warrior – Safe Harbor (NWW) and spoke from the heart, hoping to bring attention to the valuable resources available to assist wounded warriors.

Outlaw joined the Navy in 2012 and planned to make a career out of it. However, her life changed forever in March of this year after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS), a disease in which the immune system eats away at the protective covering of nerves. She is learning a new way of life, and if that is not enough for one person to handle, her husband is recovering from his fourth spinal surgery and her mom is battling cancer.

Soon after her diagnosis, Outlaw recognized she needed help and enrolled in NWW, the Navy’s sole organization for coordinating the non-medical care of seriously wounded, ill and injured Sailors and Coast Guardsman, and providing resources and support to their families and caregivers. “I realized, through research on MS, that I am going to get worse. I recently lost vision in my right eye, and I know I am not going to have a military career with this disability. I have to choose another path. NWW has given me a new path,” said Outlaw.

Outlaw, a strong willed, type-A personality, credits NWW with helping her find her way in unfamiliar territory. “Instead of getting stuck in a downward spiral of negativity and thinking everything was going to fall apart, NWW helped me to start planning for my future. They were the light at the end of the tunnel, putting things in place for me and my family so we could end up on the other side, safe and secure,” she said.

Outlaw’s daily struggles with her disease, her husband’s medical condition and her mom’s terminal cancer also brought on depression. She found NWW very beneficial in getting her through the dark times. “You need something to hold onto and NWW was there for me, even if I just needed to talk,” Outlaw added.

The unexpected diagnosis of MS may have brought on a dark cloud, but there is a silver lining. She discovered a joy for yoga. YogaFit Warrior Program – a type of yoga designed to heal a warrior’s mind, body and spirit – is something Outlaw would never have tried before her diagnosis. “My goal is to start studying yoga for wounded warriors and eventually teach when I get home. I want to help others,” she said. Outlaw, her husband Rodney, and their two young children, Sydney, age 5, and Tobin, age 1, are planning on moving back to Walla Walla, Wash., to be near their family and friends.

An important part of recovery is the development of a comprehensive recovery plan, an individualized plan developed by a non-medical care manager, which identifies and prioritizes goals for the NWW enrollee. NWW then assigns a recovery care coordinator to each enrollee. “The great thing about Elaine is her attitude. It took her a while for her to come to terms with her illness and the fact that this was going to be the new normal. Her and her husband have sat down and discussed how their life has changed, and they are planning for the future. They work on it every day, and not every day is rosy. The process of what they needed to do to prepare for their future has become organized,” said Alice Slomko, Outlaw’s NWW recovery care coordinator.

Outlaw is a strong advocate for NWW. “I try to convince folks in my command to come here and call to get help. I have a friend that will be getting help soon due to my recommendation. It’s nice to have a support team that you can call to help you,” she said.

In 2008, then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates designated November as Warrior Care Month to increase awareness of programs and resources available to wounded, ill and injured service members, their families, and those who care for them. The term “wounded warrior” does not just refer to combat-wounded service members, but also includes those suffering from serious illnesses.

NWW offers many essential services, including connecting families to respite care resources, addressing pay and personnel issues, assisting with housing and transportation adaptation, providing transition assistance, offering adaptive athletics opportunities, and more.

PALM SPRINGS (March 16, 2015)   The Outlaw family visit friends in Palm Springs, Calif. in celebration of their son's 1st birthday and tragically it was the weekend Airman Outlaw lost vision in her right eye and had to go to the emergency room. She stayed in the hospital for treatment. This was the first indication of her later diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS).

PALM SPRINGS (March 16, 2015)
The Outlaw family pose for a scenic family photo while visiting with friends in Palm Springs, Calif. in celebration of their son’s 1st birthday and tragically it was the weekend Airman Outlaw lost vision in her right eye and had to go to the emergency room. She stayed in the hospital for treatment. This was the first indication of her later diagnosis of multiple sclerosis (MS).

 

The Quarterly Family Newsletter has arrvied!

Please take time to read the latest installment of our Wounded Warrior Family Newsletter. There’s some great information in this edition including back to work resources, Warrior Care Month highlights, a story through the eyes of a caregiver, and a letter from our leadership!

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Warrior Care Month Kicks-off with Family Symposium

In the photo below, retired Lt. Aaron Ojard, a Navy Wounded Warrior – Safe Harbor (NWW) panelist, shares his experiences since enrolling in the program and how NWW has helped him and his family. The panel was part of the Wounded Warrior Family Symposium, held at the USO Warrior and Family Center on board Naval Support Activity Bethesda. The symposium was a forum for seriously wounded, injured or ill service members and their families to share stories of recovery and rehabilitation.

Wounded Warrior Family Symposium

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