John Roberts (L),Houston Chapter of the Wounded Warrior Project, presents a plaque of thanks to Kobelco Construction Machinery USA’s President Pete Morita.
Kobelco Construction Machinery USA, a Houston-based heavy equipment manufacturer, presented a check of nearly $120,000 to the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) on May 20 in Houston, Texas.
Kobelco created only five limited edition SK350LC crawler excavators wrapped in a patriotic/military design as part of a fundraiser for WWP. Kobelco is donating $100,000 to this non-profit organization that supports a full range of programs and services for this generation of injured veterans and their families.
At the recent ConExpo/ConAGG construction industry trade show in Las Vegas, Kobelco displayed one of the five limited edition SK350LC’s at its booth. Thousands of show attendees stopped by to have their picture taken with the awe-inspiring machine wrapped in patriotic graphics including the American flag, silhouettes of soldiers and logos from all five-armed force divisions. The bucket of the crawler excavator collected $19,317.75 in donations from booth visitors, creating a total donation to the WWP of $119,317.75.
A long-time supporter of the U.S. military, Kobelco was pleased to make this presentation to the WWP.
“We can’t thank the ConExpo/ConAGG attendees enough for helping us with our WWP fundraiser,” said Ron Hargrave, vice president of operations of Kobelco Construction Machinery USA. “Kobelco cares about our injured military members and their families, and has really enjoyed this opportunity to give something back to those men and women who sacrificed their lives to make ours safer.”
“We are continuously humbled by the generous support of so many businesses and individual Americans who raise money on our behalf,” said Lolita Jerido, community events manager, Wounded Warrior Project. “Thank you, Kobelco, for creating such a unique event that not only celebrated the five branches of our armed forces, but also raised money that is fueling life-saving programs for our nation’s heroes. You are truly making a difference in the lives of many,”
A Personal Journey to Heal Himself —
Wounded Warrior Relations Executive Vice President John Roberts of Houston, Texas, accepted the $119,317.75 donation check presented to the Wounded Warrior Project by Kobelco Construction Machinery USA.
Roberts, himself a wounded veteran, knows just how life-changing a donation like this can be.
In March 1992, while on deployment with the Marine Corps, his CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter experienced a complete engine malfunction off the coast of Somalia and exploded in mid-flight. There were 18 Marines onboard; four were killed. Roberts survived the crash but had third degree burns over 80 percent of his body and nearly lost his right arm. He was sent to Brookes Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, where he spent more than a year recovering, not only physically, but also mentally.
Like so many of the wounded warriors of today, Roberts had begun to experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD as it’s commonly called, and started self-medicating with alcohol. If it had not been for a fellow Marine who offered to help him, Roberts might not be here today, he said. With the support of this fellow Marine, Roberts began a new mission to assist his fellow veterans and in 2003, the Department of Veterans Affairs sent him to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., where he spent six months helping injured service members and their families to obtain their VA benefits.
Roberts had found his new passion and mission in life — he would do everything he could to take care of the newest generation of wounded warriors. That led him to the Wounded Warrior Project.
One of Roberts’s proudest achievements so far with the WWP has been the development of a mental health program for the Wounded Warriors Project where the participants feel safe talking about their problems and challenges with their peers.
As for his own healing, Roberts has come a long way, and while his physical scars are are only noticeable if you look hard, his emotional healing is very apparent. “When you have third degree burns over 80 percent of your body, you can get one hell of a facelift!” he said. With his sense of humor still intact, Roberts said he is a much better person now than he was before he was injured. Roberts said every day he is living the logo of the Wounded Warrior Project, which is one warrior helping another warrior.
The Wounded Warrior Project was formed in 2001 because its founders saw that many of the needs of returning wounded service members were not being met. The founders decided that the WWP would be a different kind of veterans’ charity in that the organization would not accept government funding and would remain true to the mission of “honoring and empowering wounded warriors.” The Wounded Warrior Project relies solely on the American public to stand behind it and to support the 20 different programs and services, such as Project Odyssey, TRACK, and the Transitional Training Academy. These programs are designed to meet the growing needs of this newest generation of wounded warriors.
According to Roberts and the WWP, without the generosity of the American public and companies like Kobelco, these wounded warriors would simply “fall through the cracks” and become just another statistic. They would not be able to reach their goal of ensuring that this is the most well-adjusted generation of wounded warriors in our nation’s history. The Wounded Warrior Project’s holistic approach to service includes not only the warrior, but his or her family as well. The services encompass the mind, body, economic empowerment and engagement. Without addressing all of these areas, the wounded warrior will be less likely to fully recover and will have a harder time adjusting to his or her “new normal,” according to the organization.
Roberts joined the United States Marine Corps in 1982 at the age of 17. He was medically discharged from the United States Marine Corps in 1996 with 14 years of service as a combat platoon sergeant. Roberts has been with the Wounded Warrior Project for eight years. He and his family live in the Houston, Texas, area.