Sitrep January 2023 Vol. 10

2022 Wrap Up

On behalf of Navy Safe Harbor Foundation, I want to thank all our donors for sticking with us over the past two years of Pandemic and constant change. Because of your generous donations, our mission – supporting wounded, ill, and injured Sailors, their families, and their caregivers – not only remained on track but allowed us to fill every request presented.

This year we provided 20 grants for general support. While it may not seem like many requests, those requests cover families and caregivers as well as the enrolled Sailor, so each request provides help to many. In several cases, the assistance we provided–payment of utility bills, rent, car payments, and insurance, to name a few–covered single parents who had recently separated from the Navy and who were facing financial hardship due to a gap in pay benefits. 

One family we helped stands out in my mind: they required a move stateside for medical care, and because of this sudden and unplanned move, they were living without household goods or a vehicle. Additionally, the spouse had to quit their job because of the move and also took on increased caregiver responsibilities while managing the treatment plan. Layer on the effects of delayed benefits, and you can see what a stressful and chaotic situation this family faced. The support we provided allowed them to rent a car, find an apartment, and get settled into their new home, leading to an improved outcome for the Sailor and his family. 

We also provide financial support to family members when travel to the bedside results in hardship. In September, we provided transportation for a young daughter to visit her hospitalized father, who was awaiting a heart transplant. Due to the financial burden this transportation placed on her mother, the daughter would not have been able to see her father during his hospitalization. Visits from his daughter relieved stress and provided comfort to the Sailor. 

In each of these situations, the support NSHF provided touched more lives than the individual wounded warrior.

Team Navy gave their all in August at the Warrior Games. The team began training in March at Point Hueneme, CA, learning and honing skills in 12 different sports. Team members participated in two camps, trials, and games over the year. Navy Safe Harbor Foundation supported the veterans in these endeavors with food, transportation, and hotel accommodations. We assisted 152 different times over the course of the team’s successful Warrior Games experience. Sailors credit participation in the Adaptive Athletic program with saving their lives, building their strength, and improving their mental and physical health. We are proud to be a part of such a rewarding program.
Caregivers are the unsung heroes in the wounded warrior arena. Navy Safe Harbor Foundation could not be happier to have been able to provide an in-person event focusing on resilience, respite, and resources for 10 caregivers in November. 
Three days of bonding, sharing, and fun enabled the caregivers to recharge themselves and return to their Sailors with renewed vigor. More than one caregiver mentioned that the event was “just what they needed.”
We look forward to 2023 and are happy to be sharing our mission and success with you.

Navy Wounded Warrior program helps Sailors “Never to Sail Alone”

Operations Specialist First Class Travis Wyatt recognized as the Navy Safe Harbor Foundation 2022 Wounded Warrior of the Year.

By Edward Lundquist

The Navy Wounded Warrior was established in 2007 to help returning wounded warriors. Initially, the program covered combat wounded only; however, in 2008, the program expanded to include the ill and injured. 

Enrollees are categorized as those who will recover and return to their position; those with serious illness or injury facing an extended recovery time and possible medical separation; and those with severe or catastrophic injury or illness and a high likelihood of not being able to return to duty.

The program’s motto is “Numquam Navigare Solus,” which means “Never to Sail Alone.”

The program is supported by Navy Safe Harbor Foundation (NSHF), that provides financial assistance and support to Navy and Coast Guard Sailors and their families enrolled in the Navy Wounded Warrior Program to ensure that every seriously wounded, ill and injured Navy and Coast Guard Sailor is given every opportunity for a full recovery by providing non-medical care and support to them and their families. 

The foundation is a 501(c)3 donation-supported, nonprofit organization. 

According to NSHF’s website, “Providing hope is our purpose.”

According to Heidi Weller, President of the Navy Safe Harbor Foundation (NSHF), the foundation was established in 2008 to provide financial assistance to those sailors who were in the process or had been medically retired. DOD funds are no longer available to those sailors in the process of being retired or are retired, and their families, when financial issues negatively impact recovery and reintegration.

“This is done through many avenues, such as bringing family members to the bedside during treatment, or helping with child or pet care, rent or mortgage assistance, transportation and other expenses.  We host regular caregiver programs that focus on resources, respite, and resilience for our enrollees.  The adaptive athletic program is open to Sailors enrolled in the program who train for, try out for, and are chosen to represent the Navy at the annual Warrior Games. NSHF supports those athletes with accommodations, food, and travel throughout all the camps and the games each year.”

Veterans Day awards luncheon recognized Operations Specialist First Class Travis Wyatt as the Navy Safe Harbor Foundation 2022 Wounded Warrior of the Year.

“I became involved with the Navy’s Wounded Warrior program following my injuries sustained while standing watch on the quarterdeck of the USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) on July 12, 2020,” Wyatt said.  “Fitzgerald was directly across the pier from USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) when she suffered a major fire.  There were three major explosions on Bonhomme Richard—the third of which was heard 13 miles away—may have knocked me unconscious.  In April of 2021 I was evaluated for traumatic brain injury (TBI) and diagnosed with mild TBI and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) resulting in multiple months of vestibular therapy, speech therapy and cognitive therapy.”

Wyatt said that when it became apparent that he would not be able to return to full duty, he was lost, and didn’t know what to do.  During his long-term care, he found out about Navy Wounded Warrior.  The program provides a wide range of support services to wounded warriors recovering from serious illness or injury – beginning at bedside and continuing throughout the rest of their lives.

“Being in the program helped me move forward with my new limitations and acclimate to my new lifestyle after my injuries,” Wyatt said.

The Navy Wounded Warrior care team encouraged Wyatt to take advantage of the Adaptive Sports Programs, where service members with various disabilities can compete regardless of their limitations or capabilities.  He went on to participate in the team trials in San Diego, and the Warrior Games in Orlando, Fla. Participating in the games for Team Navy helped to rebuild his confidence, resilience, and regain a positive outlook on life.

“I resisted getting involved in the athletic programs at first,” Wyatt said.  “Eventually I became involved in swimming, recumbent biking, and archery. This connected me with a network for teammates, coaches and staff that gave me and my shipmates a sense of purpose, and that literally saved my life. Every day is a fresh opportunity.  My teammates are there to pick me up when I’m not having a good day, and I’m there for them–we are there for each other.”

According to Wyatt’s caseworker, Ellyn Caprara, he won a silver medal in the swim relay and T1 recumbent cycle events and a gold medal in the seated compound archery and 50 meter freestyle swim events. 

“In light of his recent successes, he now has an intense interest in archery through adaptive sports and will now compete in the National Field Archery Association Foundation (NFAAF) Vegas Shoot in February 2023,” 

Caprara said. “Travis stated that the Navy Wounded Warrior Adaptive Sports Program has transformed him, and that there is a noticeable difference in his persona and mindset since the Team Trials in April 2022.”

In April of 2022, a cardiology stress test discovered an abnormal hole in his heart; and a genetic test found that he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). 

“Neither my wife or I signed up for these life altering events.  But, facing all of this, my wife and I decided that life is what we make of it,” he said.

The Wounded Warrior program also supports spouses, families and caregivers. “The importance of a caregiver is indescribable,” Wyatt said.  “Navy Wounded Warrior helped us to keep moving forward while my wife learns to be a caregiver for me–some days learning as she goes.”

Today Wyatt is an advocate for the program; helping others who need these resources take advantage of what is available to them; and having the drive to help encourage others to get out of their own heads so they may also adapt and overcome.

According to the narrative for his Sailor of the Year nomination, “Petty Officer Wyatt has truly weathered his storms with grace and tenacity. He is the epitome of a zealous leader and has shown tremendous grit and tenacity during a very difficult season in his life. With Travis’s leadership skills and strength to share his personal story with others around him, he recruited approximately 15 new wounded warriors for our program thus far!”

“I now see myself as a mentor for other Sailors like myself,” he said.  “My family and I are so very grateful for all that the Navy Wounded Warrior program has done for us and so many others.  My goal now is to let others—both the wounded warriors and their caregivers– know about how this program can help them, too.”

Courtesy of Surface SITREP, published by the Surface Navy Association

Caregivers attend the 2022 Caring for the Caregiver event


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