A Retreat for Wounded Warriors and Their Families – Making a Difference

Brain Injury Blog by Bob Cluett

July 27, 2012

A Retreat for Wounded Warriors and Their Families – Making a Difference

Supporting Wounded Warriors

Recently Marilyn and I joined a retreat in Arlington, Virginia, July 9-14, hosted by SemperMax. Titled Meeting of the Minds, it was many things – a conference, a support network, a retreat, an information forum, and an educational experience. Led by founders, Tim and Shannon Maxwell, this grass roots organization supports Wounded Warriors and their families. These are two really remarkable people whose own story bears telling.

Meet Tim and Shannon

Tim is a retired LtCol in the US Marine Corps. During his final deployment to Iraq, LtCol Maxwell sustained a severe traumatic brain injury on October 7, 2004 when his forward operating base in Kalsu was mortared and shrapnel tore through the left side of his brain. Through his recuperation, he discovered that for himself and others, recovery was enhanced by being together with other wounded warriors. He was instrumental in developing the Wounded Warrior Barracks at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.

When his wife, Shannon, had to tell her children their father had been seriously wounded in Iraq with a penetrating traumatic brain injury, she did not know how to explain what life would and could be like now. She wanted her children to know that daddy was still daddy, even if he walked or talked differently, or couldn’t remember things, or couldn’t do the things he used to do. Her book Our Daddy Is Invincible!  is the resource she produced to help other families in similar situations. 

Spend Time with Wounded Warriors

This was not your typical conference with speakers and slides. It was primarily time spent with other Wounded Warriors and their families talking, sharing and helping each other. Tim puts it this way…

“We tend not to complain about our injuries too much. Most of us know others who are worse off… a guy with a bad leg knows a guy who lost a leg, or both legs. I, with a brain that is “cracked,” know youngsters with brain injuries. But when they are wounded, they have lost control. They are off the “A” team. All their friends will tell them, as they board the helicopter to fly away, to take care of themselves. Not to worry about the team. They’ll be OK. But they want to be back with their team.  

It is hard to talk about the injury itself. The guilt that comes from leaving your team in the combat zone. The frustration. And when you do complain to or talk with a non- injured person, it rarely goes well.  When you try to discuss your frustration, people talk positively. Upbeat. That is what good folks want to do. You try to tell them a negative thing that you are fighting with, something that is driving you nutty. Your friend, your wife will try to give you the positive side. Talk about how happy they are just to see you. Even if you cannot run. Or drive

I would talk to a buddy, or my wife, or my mom. Think what you would have said: that I am lucky to be alive; that I can still see. And you do not want me to be depressed. You want to help me stay motivated. You want me to be positive. And the goofy part? Marines do not whine. Therefore, I shall not whine. I agree with it all. I think it is good for us wounded Marines to whip it… the injury, the sadness and confusion.

When you’re in the hospital, your morale is OK. You are with other wounded warriors. You can chat about it. Sometimes we just look at each other in the hallway, and nod. That’s all. Acknowledgement.  But once you are out of the hospital, it’s tough. It sounds great on the day you leave. But there’s irritation, frustration. We can do it. Deal with it. But it is a heck of a lot easier when you are with a teammate.”

Marines Support Each Other

I spent most of my time at the retreat with about 40 marines… big marines, with big problems mostly listening to their stories and letting them talk…and yes, marines do not whine. I’m a survivor of a severe childhood brain injury and I know first hand what it is like to live with TBI. This nowhere compares with what Wounded Warriors are dealing with. Yes, they are trying to put their lives together…they deal with TBI from blast injuries. Now add to that the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD, multiple deployments, chronic pain, cognitive challenges and the mounting pressures of family issues, barriers getting the services needed in a timely manner and the list goes on. No wonder statistics for divorce and suicide are so high.

The mission of the SemperMax Support Fund is to enhance the morale and welfare of service disabled veterans and their families through peer to peer, on-site visits by other service disabled veterans. They are trained to motivate and advocate on their behalf, so that they understand they have the continued support of a team. ONE TEAM! In doing so it is our hope that we can reduce the isolation, disenfranchisement from society, and suicides among veterans and their family members.

LtCol Tim does this by putting together ONE TEAM consisting of Wounded Warriors helping other Wounded Warriors, bringing them together to share resources, information, where to go, and who can help. Again, all this is done by Wounded Warriors who have gotten down the recovery road and have dedicated themselves to help and make a difference.

If you would like to make a difference, visit the SemperMax website… www.sempermax.com.

There you can learn more about what a difference Tim and Shannon are making.  I urge you to make a donation… every penny, 100%, no salaries taken, goes to help Wounded Warriors.

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