Paralympics, Community Events Increase Public Visibility Of Wounded Vets
The International Paralympics Committee has reported an increase in news coverage by the U.S., as well as record participation, with more than 4,000 Paralympians, from 165 countries, slated to compete in everything from archery to wheelchair tennis.
The increased audience for the Paralympics may be in part due to a growing awareness by Americans that some military personnel are coming back from Afghanistan and Iraq, among other places, with lasting reminders of their service. It is estimated that more than 47,000 military personnel have been injured in recent conflicts, and as many as 400,000 servicemen and women have some form of combat-related depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety.
The public has also been exposed to wounded servicemen by seeing people like Army infantryman J.R. Martinez on the small screen. Martinez, badly burned in Iraq, won 2011′s season of ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” and was a fixture on daytime TV, playing a wounded veteran on the soap opera “All My Children.” He was just named the 2012 Outstanding Disabled Veteran of the Year.
Meanwhile, the Wounded Warrior Project, a Jacksonville-based nonprofit organization, works with military veterans to become active in adaptive sports. Activities include abled, disabled and differently-abled participants doing things in communities across the U.S. and internationally; recent outings include scuba diving in an aqua park in Pennsylvania, bike riding in Germany, and surfing off California’s coast.
And in Minnesota, the Minnesota Warriors are a stand up amputee hockey team made up of some 40 disabled men and women who served from Vietnam to Afghanistan. The team was started to help support veterans and get them out on the ice, but now also bringing in community involvement and support.
A more homespun approach has been taken by a number of Pizza Hut franchises in North Carolina. Some 45 of the pizza parlors are placing signage in the parking lot that designates a “Wounded Warrior” parking spot to reserve the place for wounded veterans.
“They are not being thanked or seeing that we appreciate what they have done,” said Virginia Maloyed, the wife of Marine Iraq War veteran. It was Maloyed’s idea to approach Pizza Hut to install the signs. “This is a way to say, we remember – we remember, and we appreciate your sacrifice.”