Charity, Industry Join to Aid Soldiers in Need

Since September 11th, 2001, the Wounded Warriors Project has been aided by the construction industry in a variety of ways.

📅   Fri May 22, 2015 - National Edition
CEG



Rebuilding lives would seem to be a natural interest of construction companies as well as of construction equipment manufacturers and dealers. Their professional life’s work, after all, is to build, repair, refurbish and restore. It is not surprising that many contractors and dealers are involved in the Wounded Warriors Project.

The Project exists to make America’s many injured military service members whole again, as much as possible. Specifically, Wounded Warriors Project targets service members who incurred non-fatal injuries on or after Sept. 11, 2001, including in subsequent forays into the Middle East in pursuit of terrorists and their official sponsors. The conflicts have produced tens of thousands of casualties and hundreds of thousands of service people with post-traumatic stress disorders.

For more than a decade, WWP founders and supporters have led a campaign to alleviate stress, counsel, raise money for financial intervention and otherwise take some of the burden of reentry into civilian life from the shoulders of men and women trying to cope with life-changing issues. Some 70,000 service people belonging to WWP are called alumni, rather than members, with the explanation that they have shared pretty intense experiences with everyone else in the organization and already have paid their dues on the battlefield.

The construction industry is one of the Project’s partners in this effort. However, the industry’s contributions have not been so large that a long-time executive in WWP can cite chapter and verse of industry largesse. A notable contribution was made by Kobelco Construction Machinery USA in 2014, a $100,000 donation to Wounded Warriors Project from sales of special edition excavators. The year before, U.S. Pavement Services presented a check for $10,000 to WWP, part of an outing for wounded vets at Boston’s Fenway Park. Similar contributions pop up now and then.

Most of the industry’s support is in smaller amounts, often in the form of a contractor or equipment outlet sponsoring a public event, with money raised by the activity designated for the WWP. These events can take the form of golfing outings and other fun competitions in which some of the competitors are wounded veterans. The small-scale fundraisers are welcome, even when they are unofficial.

“We screen a company before we partner with them, because there is a cash value to our partnering with them,” said John Roberts, an executive vice president of WWP, who works from an office in Houston, Texas. Sometimes the partnership is pretty casual.

“Some ask for permission to advertise their event as a Wounded Warriors Project, and some don’t. If a company calls and says it is going to do a cookie sale, we are not going to send out a staff member,” Roberts said. “But if they do it a couple of years in a row, seem to be honest people, raise money that we actually can track and then receive, we will provide a logo they can display that says they are a proud supporter of Wounded Warriors Project.”

Such logos are found on many construction contractor Web sites, apparently most of them legitimately displayed. But the level of support varies all over the place, as do the types of support. Some contractors donate money, but others offer what Roberts particularly likes to see offered: jobs. “A lot of warriors are looking for work, and not behind a desk. Finding jobs for warriors is one of our biggest needs.”

In February, a coalition of construction employers and industry associations pledged to hire 100,000 veterans over the next five years. Some of the Wounded Warriors Project “alumni” may be among those 100,000, but many of the WWP alums are difficult to place on payrolls.

“Some of the warriors have come back to civilian life with physical injuries and other wounds, and bosses don’t always understand how to work with them,” Roberts said of the special challenges facing men and women in the organization.

To surmount these difficulties, Wounded Warriors Project offers 19 programs. As WWP declares on its Web site in introducing the programs, “Everyone’s recovery process is different. Depending where you are in your own rehabilitative and transitional process, we hope you find a program that fits you and your family’s needs.”

The programs fall into four areas: mind, body, economic empowerment and engagement. Some examples include: Project Odyssey, which joins outdoor recreational activities with therapeutic counseling to address stress and attitude obstacles; the Independence Program that works with vets with moderate-to-severe brain injuries and other neurological conditions; Warriors to Work, which essentially is a human resources-job placement program; and the Alumni program that maintains the warriors community through discounted services and scheduled get-togethers.

Wounded Warriors Project is an accredited charity and may be principally viewed as such. But Roberts says WWP is working to become an accredited service organization such as the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars. As the latter, WWP can more effectively advocate for veterans. The need for such advocacy does not seem to be receding.

In fact, the numbers of wounded veterans in need of special handling is still growing. In the face of that, does Roberts hold out hope of eventually slowing the tide if not turning it? A 19-year administrator of veterans programs who came to WWP eight years ago, Roberts sounds confident. He said he can tell a lot of success stories if asked and believes they will continue to develop at WWP for years to come.

“I have never seen another organization that has such a wealth of programs that take a holistic approach make them work so well. I have worked with individuals who were suicidal,” he said. “They get into our programs, like Odyssey, and into our employment program where they learn how to get a resume down. They have completely given up when they come to WWP and now they are thriving, and employed, and married. I have tons of these stories.”

So the construction industry is involved in a good work, from all indications. While Roberts would welcome more of the industry’s support, he acknowledges that significant contributions have been made to date. “There are construction groups out there that build homes for vets. Others that raise money for the cause. Many want to hire our wounded warriors.”

He said the whole movement to help military veterans is not a new one. “This generation of veterans isn’t any different than previous generations. They are dedicated people. They did something not only for themselves but for their country: They volunteered to go to war. The people who do that are less than 1 percent of the country. Less than 1 percent has ever worn the uniform.

“If I was hiring, for construction or anything else, I would want someone who is going to be dedicated, loyal, self-motivated, a team player. Having a fancy degree on the wall doesn’t always do it. These are the kinds of people we have at Wounded Warriors Project.”

If you would like to learn more about Wounded Warriors Project, visit http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/.

Related: Kobelco Presents Nearly $120,000 to Wounded Warrior Project