A Mother’s Testimony to Supporting Wounded Veterans

Pam Estes reflects on the benefits of the Wounded Warrior Project, and how supporters have indirectly saved the life of her son, Jason.

Pam Estes says she’s used to strangers approaching her and her son, Jason Ehrhart. The strangers’ faces are warm and sincere, especially when they see him wearing a Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) hat or t-shirt. Often, they thank Jason for his service and sacrifice, adding that they are WWP supporters. Pam often responds, ‘‘The benefit of your support for Wounded Warrior Project is right here — in the person of Jason. And we thank you for that. He would not have made the progress he’s made without people like you who care.’’

In 2005, during the first free elections in Iraq, Jason served as the gunner on a Humvee. He was transporting a bomb-sniffing dog to a polling station to help ensure the Iraqi people could vote in peace and safety.

On the way, an explosive destroyed the Humvee and inflicted devastating injuries on Jason, including a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and second- and third-degree burns over 60 percent of his body.

Jason’s brain swelled from the TBI. While in a coma for three months, Jason endured 30 surgical procedures to help save his life.

‘‘To know he’s gone through all that and is now the social butterfly he used to be... I don’t know if that journey of healing would have been possible without Wounded Warrior Project.’’

Jason’s journey and security for his future are in Pam’s mind whenever she thanks a supporter of WWP saying, ‘‘Because of your support, there is a future; there is hope.”

Since 2003, the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) has been a tireless advocate for our nation’s finest, improving the lives of millions of veterans and their families. Our continuing dedication to serving those who were wounded while protecting us is resolute, and we stand together as an organization on behalf of a nation that is indebted to our men and women in uniform.

WWP programs empower people like Lisa Crutch, a veteran who served in Iraq and now copes with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI). While deployed, Lisa’s unit was under constant threat of ambush. Returning home, she relived the intensity of moving through towns, trying to avoid armed enemy combatants who hid in buildings and on rooftops, ready to shoot.

For our nation’s men and women in uniform, transitioning to civilian life can be difficult but not impossible. WWP programs, including combat stress recovery, career counseling and physical health and wellness, empowered Lisa to challenge herself and overcome her injuries. Today, she is a peer mentor — a true embodiment of the WWP mission — who encourages fellow warriors to stand up, overcome and move forward.

WWP programs also help veterans like Michael Carrasquillo find employment in their transitions back to civilian life. Michael’s unit was ambushed in Afghanistan, where he was shot five times by enemy fire and two of his fellow soldiers died. His wounds were severe — his heart stopped twice. His physical and mental recovery was an arduous, two-year process. Michael was in his early 20s, honorably discharged and felt too young to retire. Wanting to work, he didn’t know where to begin looking for a civilian job.

With WWP support, Michael attended career-counseling programs designed to help him translate his military service training into relevant market value, becoming an empowered job seeker. Through hard work, patience and help from WWP, Michael secured employment at the Department of Veterans Affairs in Washington D.C., building IT programs that help fellow warriors.

WWP programs engage veterans like Shonda Gloude-Jones. In 1998, Shonda was on a night jump when her parachute collapsed at 200 feet, causing a severe back injury. Despite her pain, Shonda was deployed to Iraq and returned to the United States with symptoms of PTSD and TBI that led to depression, reclusion and obesity. Looking for strength and support, Shonda registered with WWP and began attending events to engage with other warriors. Since joining WWP, Shonda has lost more than 125 pounds and connects regularly with physical health and wellness programs such as Soldier Ride.

Our ultimate goal is warrior support. Every warrior has unique challenges and goals, which is why we continue improving existing programs and creating innovative services to empower, employ and engage warriors across this nation.