Fort Bliss Wounded Warrior Walk raises awareness, funds
November 7, 2008
Even in the military community, many are unaware of the difficulties and dilemmas faced by the nation's wounded warriors and their families, said Nancy Mainor, director of the Fort Bliss Soldier and Family Assistance Center. Often, she said, the families themselves never imagined the obstacles they must confront and the problems they must solve.
"We encounter on a daily basis families who ... never imagined they would be in these situations," Mainor said.
In order to raise awareness of the issues faced by wounded servicemembers and their families, and to raise money to help alleviate some of those hardships, several organizations came together Saturday to host the Wounded Warrior Walk at the Stout Physical Fitness Center track here.
More than 4,000 walkers and runners converged on the track to show their support for America's heroes, and donated approximately $12,000 to the SFAC in the process.
"It's awesome. People are awesome," said Glenda Bromberg, the event's organizer and wife of Fort Bliss' commanding general. "People want to help, people want to support, and you see it out here."
"I'm really happy that everybody's out here today to honor all the wounded warriors and their families," said Maj. Gen. Howard Bromberg, the post commander, who wore the No. 1 runner's bib at the event. "I think there has been great participation. It's a great first event - there's a huge turnout.
"It's really just a great Team Bliss event, bringing the post together," he added. "I'm really happy with it."
The Wounded Warrior Walk came about, Bromberg said, because she was spurred to action by the story of a young Soldier whose family suffered greatly after he was wounded.
"I'd been thinking about it for a long time, then I heard a really sad, tragic story of a double amputee and his family," she said.
The Soldier in the story was left mentally incapacitated by an anesthesia reaction following surgery. Before deploying to Iraq, the Soldier had signed legal guardianship over to his brother because he feared his wife, who did not speak English and was just 22 years old, would be taken advantage of. The wife was taken advantage of, but it was by the brother, who collected the Soldier's money for himself and left the Soldier's wife and three children on their own.
"When I heard that story, I realized we have to do this," she said, and the SFAC partnered with Fort Bliss Morale, Welfare and Recreation to make Bromberg's vision a reality.
Heather Warren was already aware of some of the challenges faced by wounded warriors; she took part in the walk to show support for a friend assigned to Fort Bliss' Warrior Transition Battalion.
"It's beautiful," she said of the turnout, as she gazed over the sea of Soldiers and civilians milling around the track, waiting for the event's start. "I can't believe it. I just love it. The donations will help out a lot for the wounded warrior program."
"We're military. That's why we're here," said Natasha Hall, who came to the walk with her son Steve, 9, and twin daughters Brianna and Brittany, 5. "My girls are doing it because their uncle, my brother, was wounded last year, so we're just out here supporting the troops. I think it's wonderful."
Sgt. 1st Class Steven Faulk of A Battery, 2nd Battalion, 6th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, was one of several noncommissioned officers overseeing their advanced individual training Soldiers' participation in the event.
"I'm actually in charge of some of the AIT students, and I thought it would be a good thing to show the new privates what's going on with the Army, and things we do other than train, you know what I mean'" he said. "It's great to be out here supporting our wounded warriors."
"I was surprised, actually, by the number of people out here," he continued. "I think it's a great thing to have, and they should probably have something like this more often, to keep the issue on people's minds."
Faulk's children - Hanna and Nicklas, both 10 - came along to support their father.
"I wanted to come with my dad," Nicklas said. "And I think this is kind of fun."
"I came because my dad is in the Army, and he asked if I could," said Hanna. "I'm surprised there are so many people [here]."
The turnout surprised event organizers, as well.
"It exceeded what I had expected," Mainor said. "It was so wonderful to see so many people out walking and supporting our wounded warriors; there was a huge turnout."
"I'd like to give a big thanks to our supporters, our walkers, who truly, truly, showed support for our wounded warriors," she added.
Walk participants had the option of taking part in a five-kilometer noncompetitive walk/run or a one-mile walk/run. Registration for both events was free, but walkers were encouraged to make donations to the Soldier and Family Assistance Center.
While the fundraising aspect was a bonus, the event's main purpose was to raise awareness of the plight of wounded warriors and their families, Mainor said, and make people aware of the existence of the Soldier and Family Assistance Center. In terms of its mission, the walk was a success, she said.
"I think the walk did very well in raising awareness," Mainor said. "We didn't do a formal education, but we had people asking questions and family members wondering what we do at the Soldier and Family Assistance Center, and that's what's most important: that people know there is a Soldier and Family Assistance Center and that we are here to help."
The Army takes care of its own, she said, but sometimes there are things the Army can't do.
"That's where we come in," Mainor said of the Soldier and Family Assistance Center. "And Reserve and Guard families are especially our target. Wounded warriors and their families need support, and our programs offer that. A lot of times, the families don't know where to go to get help, and we're there for them."
The Soldier and Family Assistance Center provides a full range of support services to warriors in transition and their families, including military and personnel benefits information and referral, financial counseling, employment support, substance abuse information and referral for family members, education counseling, child care, legal services, pastoral care and services, and travel voucher settlements for family members.