April 2023 Vol. 11

It takes a village

It takes a village is an often-heard phrase when raising young children and one that has a lot of truth; however, it is also true in the world of Navy Safe Harbor Foundation. Our village is built when we interact with each of you. When you give of yourself and your time. When you donate, no matter the size of the donation.

The needs of the wounded warrior community have not decreased because the United States is not actively engaged in combat. Injuries happen during deployment, while a ship is in port, or on base. Illnesses change Sailor’s lives each and every day, and they are never an expected or planned development. The Navy Wounded Warrior program has over 8,000 enrollees, with enrollment increasing each month; 61% of these enrollees have experienced an illness and 39% an injury. Many of these Sailors never need assistance from NSHF but when one does our village steps up and helps.

The NSHF village has done some amazing things in giving back to Sailors. We have reunited families who have experienced separation due to medical treatment. We have provided a clean and safe place to stay when a Sailor was without a home. Pet care was made available when a Sailor required in-patient care but had no family to care for his pets. Volunteers step in and help coordinate and host our yearly events. Emissaries spread the word and promote our mission. This village is vast and dedicated, and we are proud to work alongside each one of you to accomplish our mission.

Thoughts from our board

David Vardeman, Senior Vice President Capital Bank, N.A.

Navy Safe Harbor Foundation is a wonderful Veteran Service Organization helping our US Navy and Coast Guard wounded warriors and their families. I have been on the Board of Directors for over eight years, and there are a few major reasons I believe deeply in the mission.

The first reason is that we directly support the active duty and recently medically retired suffering from violent injury, burned victims, post-traumatic stress/brain trauma, and terminally ill Sailors. All of our requests for support are vetted so there are no internal discussions on whether we should or should not assist. We work directly with the Navy Wounded Warrior Program, ensuring the funding goes directly to the individuals or families in need. Providing support when the government cannot help brings great joy to our Board of Directors and reflects we are making timely and needed contributions. Being a 100% volunteer organization allows me to confidently say that all the funds raised go to those in need. Fundraising and activities are the second reason I enjoy this mission.

I am personally in charge of the NSHF Veterans Day Luncheon fundraising event. At this event, we honor the Wounded Warrior of the Year. This is a Sailor from the program’s active enrollees that exemplify character, courage, and inspiration during their recovery. It has been one of the honors of my life to host these incredibly brave and courageous individuals as they are recognized. We have this event at the Army Navy Country Club, Arlington, VA, so it is a unique location for the Wounded Warrior of the Year to be honored with their family or friends in attendance. This event is not only uplifting to the individual receiving the honor but inspirational to all who attend. Making a difference for those most deserving in our nation is something Navy Safe Harbor Foundation can be proud of each year.

In conclusion, the reasons above keep me motivated every year to deliver to our nation’s heroes. But I would be remiss if I did not mention the wonderful friendships and individuals I work with at NSHF. The Board of Directors is made of caring, thoughtful, and hard-working individuals that wish the best for our US Sailors. Many are heroes, but their patriotism drives them to help those in need. To be mentored and supported by such great Americans has been simply an amazing experience in my life. As long there are Sailors in need of medical or mental assistance, Navy Safe Harbor Foundation will be ready to take on the call.

From the Deck of Planate

By: Susan Hieb

Prior to retirement, I had the privilege of working on the CNIC Headquarters staff for Navy Wounded Warrior. Daily challenges included finding and developing programs to support and assist Sailors and their family members who were experiencing hardship due to becoming wounded, ill or injured. Government resources exist to support members, but for those needs not met by these programs, Navy Safe Harbor Foundation was a lifeline, and I am forever grateful for the support they provided NWW enrollees during my time at HQ.

NWW is structured so that regional staff and case managers travel bedside to meet face to face with wounded warriors and their caregivers and/or family members. The field staff works diligently with the enrollees to develop a recovery plan. Together, Sailors and case managers identify non-medical goals which can often be achieved through government channels or local resources. However, when needs arise that are beyond the scope of the region, case managers can opt to seek help from HQ to address those needs.

It never ceased to amaze me the red tape and issues we encountered simply trying to help a Sailor or Coast Guardsman. I recall a single Sailor, stationed on the opposite coast from family support, whose vocal chords were severed. His doctors prescribed a device that would aid him in communicating with his medical team and also allow him to communicate with his family long distance, but the request was denied by the medical insurance provider. Thankfully, once NSHF was aware of the need, they immediately funded the device to assist with the Sailor’s recovery. I also remember a Sailor suffering from a debilitating condition and unable to work. His wife dutifully cared for him, helping with activities of daily living until her own health deteriorated and necessitated surgery. NSHF provided relief by funding the airfare for a family member to travel to their home and provide care giving services to the enrollee, his spouse and their two underage children.

These scenarios were not unusual, nor were they among the more sensational hardships experienced by some NWW enrollees and their families. I can’t put a number on how many times my eyes filled with tears as I analyzed enrollee case notes and Sailor testimonials while trying to determine how to prioritize the needs and then provide the best assistance. In a few extreme cases, I had to step away from my desk in order to mentally prepare myself before I could finish processing the horrific details of an enrollee’s condition, challenges and needs. While some stories were gut wrenching, I took comfort knowing that NSHF would answer our calls, day or night, and support the needs we presented with willingness and compassion. As a former NWW employee, I can confirm firsthand the supporting role NSHF provides NWW is a lifesaver. I will continue to support and advocate for NSHF as they support Sailors whose health has been compromised while defending our nation.

Outside the Box Resources

There are more than 45,000 military and veteran non-profit organizations in the United States today. Many work in the background, while some are familiar faces. From providing food to building houses, arranging respite, and physical activity, organizations focus on supporting service members and their families; helping them thrive and prosper.

Patriot Point, located in Madison, MD, and Camp Freedom, headquartered in Carbondale, PA, are two of these organizations. Each focuses on providing camaraderie, peer-to-peer interaction, and respite through outdoor adventures and unique approaches to healing. Military service members, their families, and caregivers are welcomed at both facilities at no cost. Equipment and instruction are provided for outdoor adventure and recreational opportunities year-round. ADA-compliant lodging facilities for overnight stays are open year-round. Each facility is run by dedicated veterans and volunteers who assist visitors in hunting, fishing, hiking, canoeing, shooting sports, and many more activities.

These organizations know the benefits of time spent outdoors in the fresh air. They understand the power of camaraderie and friendship. They provide these opportunities for service members in need and give back one person at a time.

Check out their website for reservation availability and more information on outdoor activities.

  • Patriot Point, Madison, MD
  • Camp Freedom, Carbondale, PA


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