Story by Petty Officer 2nd Class Vaughan Dill, Navy Public Affairs Support Element, Det. Northwest
SILVERDALE, Wash. – Seven Navy Wounded Warrior (NWW) panel members shared their testimonials during a NWW Family Symposium Jan. 26. at the Bangor Plaza Ballroom.
NWW panel members included Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 1st Class Cameron Fisher, assigned to Naval Air Station Whidbey Island; Aviation Structural Mechanic 1st Class Gabriel Horner, assigned to Naval Station Everett, joined by his wife, Sarah; Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman Joseph Paterniti, Navy reservist assigned to Naval Station Everett; Missile Technician 2nd Class Clay Perry assigned to Naval Base Kitsap, joined by his wife, Colleen; and Chief Electrician’s Mate (Nuclear) William Thornburgh, assigned to Naval Base Kitsap.
Rear Adm. Gary Mayes, commander, Navy Region Northwest, served as the guest speaker for the event, which allowed panel members to share their experiences and the struggles they face, both medical and non-medical, with an audience of both military and civilians.
“The Navy Wounded Warrior program provides personalized non-medical care to seriously ill and injured Sailors and Coast Guardsmen, allowing them to focus on getting well and rebuilding their lives without distractions,” said Mayes.
The NWW – Safe Harbor program, established in 2005, coordinates the non-medical care of seriously wounded, ill, and injured Sailors and Coast Guardsmen, and provides resources and support to their families and caregivers.
With coverage extending to the Coast Guard in 2009, there are currently 73 Wounded Warriors in Navy Region Northwest including 12 Coast Guardsmen who also receive support.
“Many of those who have risen to match these challenges have done so with great internal fortitude and uncommon strength, bolstered by those nearest to them,” said Mayes. “Family members and caregivers make significant sacrifices to support their wounded warriors.”
Most people associate Wounded Warriors conditions with combat, though many injuries and illness are not combat related. Wounded Warriors fight against a myriad of challenges, including mishap, post-traumatic stress disorder and serious illness such as multiple sclerosis and cancer.
“For me, the story of our wounded warriors and their families serve as an enduring reminder of their struggles, suffering, and triumph,” said Mayes. “Each warrior has their own story and their own challenges in overcoming some of life’s most difficult hardships.”
Through proactive leadership, the program provides individually tailored assistance designed to optimize the success of the wounded warriors’ recovery, rehabilitation, and reintegration activities.
“This program is a pledge to continue to provide resources and assistance, specifically tailored for caregivers to assist those who need it most,” said Mayes. “This family symposium provides awareness and insight to this outstanding program. It gives us an opportunity to meet the families of our seriously wounded and injured service members, and to hear about their experiences along the path to recovery.
NWW helps Sailors and Coast Guardsmen return to duty, and when that’s not possible, the program works with federal agencies, state, and local organizations to ease wounded warriors back into their communities.
“It was hard for me due to the fact that I refused to stop to take care of myself because I wanted to stay in the game,” said Paterniti. “One thing that people like me are really good at is avoiding, it wasn’t until my [Navy] family came to me and said ‘brother you’ve got some [issues] you’ve got to deal with’ that I started actually seeing a mental health professional.”
Regional NWW non-medical care management teams work with wounded warriors and their families to identify their goals and develop plans to achieve them.
“I worked with my PTSD all on my own for eight years before getting up to Whidbey Island and getting diagnosed,” said Fisher. “I also suffer from cluster migraines and on my last deployment, I literally died and was brought back. Safe Harbor has been the turning point in my life and is probably one of the best things of my naval career.”
Sailors and Coast Guardsmen may self-refer to the program or be referred by family, command leadership, or medical providers.
NWW enrollment is available to seriously wounded, ill, and injured Sailors and Coast Guardsmen, including shipboard and training accidents, liberty accidents, and serious medical and psychological conditions.
For more information on the NWW-Safe Harbor contact your regional director or contact the NWW – Safe Harbor Call Center at 1-855-628-9997 or firstname.lastname@example.org.