Wounded Warriors assist veterans

June 26, 2009 8:45:20 PM PDT
A national organization is reaching out to Pennsylvania's wounded veterans. Its goal is to help them return to productive lives.Wounded Warriors is a grassroots non-profit organization that offers a variety of services to vets; most of whom cannot, or do not, seek out help on their own.

A representative visited Philadelphia recently to demonstrate the strong bond between those soldiers needing assistance and those fortunate to have found the Wounded Warrior project.

"I know what it's like to be locked in your house and feel there's absolutely nothing left in life," veteran Joe Gross said.

Gross wants the folks at McGee Rehabilitation Center to know what Wounded Warriors can offer the vets they treat from Iraq and Afghanistan.

"My main mission is to locate the warriors once they come home," Gross said.

Wounded Warriors located Merrisa Strock after she lost both legs in a roadside IED explosion in Baghdad in 2005.

"My left foot was blown apart in the boot and my right leg was badly damaged from toe to hip," Strock said.

She was a military police officer just 20 years old:

"I was in the gunner's position, 3 people died, I was the only one who survived," Strock said.

After 4 months at Walter Reed Hospital, leaving was more difficult than she thought.

"My friends had all moved on with their lives; they didn't just stop and wait for me to come home," Strock said.

Wounded Warriors moved Marissa to its headquarters in Jacksonville, Florida, paid for her apartment, tuition for college, and helped her find a job. She just got her drivers' license and a new Mustang convertible!

Women or men, Joe believes his obligation to both is the same.

"What I'm trying to do is find these guys, who don't think they're doing alright and say 'listen, you're going to be alright, and I'm going to take you off the battlefield and I'll prove to you you're going to be fine," Gross said.

Joe lost his leg on his second tour of duty in a suicide car bombing in Baghdad.

But today he's quick to tell you he's not broken, just slightly inconvenienced.

"I've got a million goals to prove to myself that I am not broken. I've backpacked the Grand Canyon. I've done some other backpacking in New York, snowboarding, fly-fishing, golfing, and riding a bike and you name, I do it!" Gross said.

Andy Robinson was left a quadriplegic when his humve was hit by a roadside bomb 3 years ago in Iraq. Because 3 other soldiers died, he spent little time feeling sorry for himself.

"Even though I couldn't walk and my hands didn't work, I was still here and I still get to spend the day with my wife," Robinson said.

But Andy, who enjoys wheelchair rugby, is one of the lucky ones

"I commend them on what they're doing because for me, when I got hurt, they didn't' have this. It was like, ok, you can go home," veterean Earl Richardson of Burlington, New Jersey said.

The rugby team's manager, AJ, was deeply depressed for 8 years before wheelchair rugby opened the door to a new life.

"I got a job at McGee. I just graduated school. I just got engaged. I'm the happiest person I know," AJ said.

AJ is excited about what Wounded Warriors can offer others like Joe and Marissa.

Wounded Warriors depends solely on donations for its funding.

If you would like to find out more about the organization and the services it provides, click here.

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