Wounded Warriors in Action and their search for the New Normal

Keni Thomas
Keni Thomas

Our country has been at war on two fronts for 13 years. Think about that.  Where were you on 9-11?  How has your life changed since then?  13 years. Three times longer than WWII, three years longer than Vietnam.  In fact, the war on terror is the longest in our nation’s history. And yet most of us, in fact 99% of us, are not really affected by it.  We get up and send our kids off to school. We go to work, and we come home. We spend our day-to-day without much thought given to a battle that’s being fought by our very own citizens on some remote mountain range a world away. Now I don’t think this is because we as Americans don’t care - no, not at all.  I think it’s because, for the most part, we are unaffected.  Or are we?

Today, less than 1% of Americans serve in our armed forces.   One in a hundred - That’s it.  To those Americans who did raise their hands and stepped forward in defense of our nation, these past thirteen years have been very personal, life-changing, and have taken a toll.  Over 50,000 service men and women have been wounded in combat. And that’s just the wounds you can see. Families have been tested. Lives have been altered. Hearts and minds have hardened as the combat veterans come home and struggle to find their place in the world.  

How do you separate yourself from a day-to-day existence, where survival was the norm and the split second decisions you made affected the very lives of those who mean the most to you?  How do you leave behind that family you’ve come to depend on so absolutely, and make a seamless transition to your “real” family back here in the “real” world?  It’s a daunting task. You have to undo what you’ve been trained to do and learn a completely new set of life skills. Things like someone else feelings getting hurt are a foreign language to you. You do your best to empathize, but your frame of reference for what really matters is still back on a ridge line in the Kandahar province.

So you find yourself in an argument with your wife wondering “Why is she so upset about the checkbook? No one is shooting at her?”  You go to your job looking for a sense of purpose, but the people there appear to only be worried about themselves.  “People here just don’t get it”  “Who do I count on now? Who will have my back?” And then there’s the guilt. “Why God did you let me live when others who were twice the soldier I am, did not?”

For those of us who make it back bearing the wounds of combat, we are all faced with the monumental task of reintegrating into life and finding our “new normal”.  Fortunately there is help...a great deal of it.  Wounded Warriors in Action is here for you, the combat veteran.  In fact, they are men and women who have worn the boots.  Been where you’ve been. Felt what you have felt. They want to, and more importantly, know how to help. 

The WWIA mission statement focuses on a set of goals that assist our wounded veterans with a positive recovery from their war experience.  Increase Self-Reliance. Bolster self-confidence. Instill a Sense of Belonging. Finally, my favorite - promote spiritual healing and wellness.  

It takes time.  It takes patience.  It takes understanding and appreciation. It takes resources.  It takes a support system firmly rooted in the home front which stands waiting with open arms. For the 99 percent of us who are not overseas in the line of fire, this is our calling. This is our chance to do our part to say “Welcome home, we’ve been waiting for you”.

To the 1% who are navigating their way back to the “new normal”, I will remind you that you are not alone.   People do care.  People do get it.  People do want to help.  Being a wounded warrior does not mean you have to stay wounded.  Through God, all healing is possible, and the WWIA is a great place to start.

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