COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado -- When obstacles arise, you change your direction to reach your goal, you do not change your decision to get there.” ~Zig Ziglar, American author and motivational speaker.
In any clime and place, Marines have persevered through almost every battle that forged this nation. The evolving battlefield has made modern-day warfare more technical, tactical and evermore dangerous, but our wounded warriors who come home sometimes take the battle with them.
Historically, wounded, ill, and injured service members and veterans had fewer resources and less support to help them reintegrate back into a normal lifestyle. Advances in battlefield medicine and technology have led to an increase in survivability of our service members who are wounded in combat. It wasn’t until 2007 that the Wounded Warrior Regiment entrenched and became a working testament to the Marine Corps' commitment to “Keep Faith” with Marines.
“We have to approach each and every Marine individually and say this is how we are going to attack the situation and this is how we are going to gain a victory for you. Every one of the Marines has a complex need ... it’s not a cookie-cutter approach,” said Col. T. Shane Tomko, commanding officer, Wounded Warrior Regiment. “We work four lines of operations; those lines are the physical, spiritual, mental and the transition. ... It's not just one element, but they’re all tied together ... the stronger we are physically, the stronger we’ll be mentally, spiritually and that better enables our warriors to transition either back into the ranks or the civilian community.”
Our wounded warriors suffer from external and internal wounds that can be either combat or non-combat related. In their road to recovery, some Marines lose more than physical strength; they can lose hope, faith, perseverance and more. The regiment’s focus to promote balanced and total healing has given the kind of support these Marines need in their worst of days. Standing behind these men and women who have sacrificed so much connects them to critical resources and aids them in achieving their long-term recovery goals.
“You deal with you’re injuries in a different way and have to know that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel somewhere. ... Being with other individuals who are hurt, whether its combat or non-combat, makes it a lot better than compared to being by yourself. ... I went through a hard time when I was by myself,” said Sgt. Michael Wishnia, a native to Livingston, New Jersey. “Mentally you’re hurt because you’re use to being combat ready, but can’t do what you use to. Then you find something you can do and it brings you back up again ... I’ve been doing this for almost my whole life, it feels like my whole life and it’s what I love doing. I love being a Marine.”
Whether in a time of peace or war, the Wounded Warrior Regiment is an enduring presence that ensures our service members and veterans receive the comprehensive non-medical recovery care that is crucial in order for the Marine Corps to take care of its own. The regiment provides a unique and diverse recovery program that caters to each individual, because no matter what happens, the Corps and their fellow Marines will take care of them.
“Having facilities that are tailored to injured personnel is great,” said Wishnia. “We have our athletic, personal trainers and coaches that know how to build and tailor their workouts to you, so it brings back another spark to the life that we thought we couldn’t have ... plus the Warrior Games keeps that competitive spirit up and brings all the forces together to fight for each other and for the same goal.”
Finding solace at the home front can be a struggle. Despite persevering throughout a Marines military career, the hardest time to find that grit could be throughout recovery.
“Mentally, I had to say listen, you’re not going to be able to do this anymore. I have my family, a wife and two kids, and I have to succeed for them, like how I succeeded for my Marines in combat,” said Wishnia. “My wife has helped me out tremendously. Sometimes I’ll be in a bad moment, but she knows that her and my kids are my life and they know I’ll have to continue pushing on and fighting for them, especially since my kids are so young now. ... I don’t want them to have that type of dad who fell to alcohol or became abusive, that’s not what I want. I want to be the dad that’s able to do what I can with my kids, even with my limitations. ... I still have a mission to accomplish as a Marine and father ... and even though my time as an active Marine may come to an end, I’m always a Marine, and I’ll do whatever I can for them.”