In a show of gratitude and support for military veterans, the Washington County Chapter (Maryland) hosted its third annual Wounded Warrior Day. The chapter opened its facilities to veterans who are being treated at an area rehabilitation facility. The 30 male veterans who participated this year served in Vietnam, the Gulf War, Iraq, and Afghanistan. They represent a range in ages and war experience. But they all have one thing in common: post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). And some of these veterans are kids who Steve Wachter, the chapter’s events coordinator, watched grow into adults and enlist.
“You see these kids go off and come back different men,” says Wachter. “Their mother kept their room in the order that they left it in, but when they come back, it’s not the same. It’s hard for the parents and loved ones to know that these kids were being shot at just days earlier.” He knows first-hand the effects of PTSD because he struggled with it himself. As a Vietnam veteran, he understands the unique challenges soldiers must deal with and decided to do something for the area veterans. Wachter connected with several hospitals that work with veterans, but only one took him up on his offer of a day of rest and fellowship at the chapter for the veterans.
The chapter provides a full day of unstructured, relaxed, come-as-you-are fun. The activities vary from archery and trout fishing to horseshoe throwing and cards. And you can’t have a day of fun without food! The chapter provides breakfast, snacks, and a full lunch for all the veterans.
Knowing what awaits the veterans when they return to the rehabilitation facility, chapter members send them back with t-shirts, comfortable folding chairs, and valuable sundries in a care package. All of the food and supplies, which are free to the guests, were donated by the chapter, area businesses, and members of the community.
The Washington County Chapter has a guest book that sits by the front door of the chapter house. Many of the soldiers took a moment to write their names, ranks, and sentiments. The most repeated theme was, “Thank you for understanding.” These veterans have sacrificed a lot for their country. For one day, the chapter was able to give them something in return.