As a master of social work candidate from the University of Southern California and a 10-year Air Force veteran, I found myself needing to do something to assist others who, like me, have separated from service due to a disability. Social workers give voices to vulnerable populations that need to be heard.
Our nation’s veterans are a special community that has earned our support and deserves the highest of honors. More than a decade has passed since the start of the war against terrorism. Hundreds of thousands of veterans have had to return home due to a combat injury or in some cases suffering from the invisible wounds that war has left behind.
After years of veterans returning from war with both physical and mental wounds, the care of our wounded service members and veterans would change drastically in 2010. The need for better health care programs has increased exponentially since the start of the war, and will continue to grow as more of our military members complete their service.
In 2010, Congress unanimously passed into law the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Care Act. This was a monumental piece of legislation that would set new standards not only for the medical treatment of our wounded veterans, but also establish new programs to help their caregivers cope with the recovery process of their wounded family member.
Furthermore, the care of female veterans would undergo much-needed improvements. The Department of Veterans Affairs would also establish grant programs for the prevention of homelessness under this new policy.
Through government funding from the VA, an effort was made to meet all of the demands of these populations. However, as is common throughout governmental agencies, programs often take time to be implemented. When funding from the public sector cannot provide the necessary support for these vital programs, non-profit organizations often step in to fill the gap.
As an alumnus of Wounded Warrior Project, I found this organization to be one at the forefront of this cause. This non-profit, private organization was founded by a handful of veterans with the goal of providing assistance to those returning from war. Wounded Warrior Project has been able to provide support to more than 33,000 service members through more than 20 programs ranging from family counseling to prosthetic use training over the last 10 years. It is due to this organization’s loyal support to my fellow veterans that I chose to support it, and I urge others to do the same.
Organizing events while educating the general public about Wounded Warrior Project has been rewarding beyond compare. I was witness to the support our communities have for the organization as I participated in various sponsored events. Tough Mudder competitions have raised nearly $6 million for the organization this year alone. The support we received as a team as we carried the distinguished Wounded Warrior Project flag through the 11.6-mile obstacle course was inspiring. On Aug. 4, Rochester Rocks, a benefit concert, collected more than $4,000 in funds. When communities rally together in support of Wounded Warrior Project, it shows. Local businesses and citizens not only donated products but also gave their time and services to the cause.
Through these experiences, a resounding message was heard. Members of the community are willing to take care of the veterans who needed more assistance than government programs could provide. Raising funds for Wounded Warrior Project was not only a charitable thing to do for these participants; they saw it as a need, just as I do.
The experiences learned through the advocating process are some of the most valuable lessons I will carry through my career as a social worker. It is my belief that even though government agencies will continue to do their part, when it comes to honoring our heroes, there will always be room for someone else to go above and beyond, as veterans have in defending our freedoms.
To find a Wounded Warrior Project event near you, please visit www.proudsupporterwwp.org/misc/proud-supporter-events.aspx.
Carolina Roy, of Honeoye Falls, is an Air Force veteran, an alumnus of Wounded Warrior Project and a 2014 master of social work candidate at the University of Southern California.