When Scott Lilleyâ€™s Humvee was struck by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2007, he woke up in a military hospital in Bethesda, Md., with a traumatic brain injury and a bookbag next to his bed. Inside the bag was nothing special â€” just a pair of socks, some underwear, T -shirts and various toiletries.
But for many soldiers returning from war, these are the only material goods they have with them. And Lilleyâ€™s parents, Roswell residents Frank and Jolene, havenâ€™t forgotten who gave it to their son: the Wounded Warrior Project.
â€œYoung men come back across the ocean in only a [hospital] gown,â€ Frank said, shaking his head. â€œBut thatâ€™s what got us through the whole thing: knowing that people care.â€
Frank and Jolene were just two of the 30 Roswell residents who attended a WWP fundraiser Saturday evening, held in the backyard of Jan and Pete De Groot. The gala was intended to raise money and awareness for the nonprofit, nonpartisan program based in Florida that helps injured soldiers and veterans.
â€œI just think itâ€™s a great program, and Iâ€™m glad we have the opportunity to help,â€ Ellen De Groot, who lost her father in Vietnam, said. She added that both her brothers serve in the military in the Army and Air Force Reserves.
Two guest speakers from Albuquerque, who last year raised more than $386,000 for WWP, took center stage on the patio to urge the crowd to support members of the military who sacrifice for their country.
â€œThese young men and women who have been injured need our help,â€ Terri Krueger said, adding that she put her full-time job as an interior designer on hold to raise funds for the program. Both her sons serve in the Navy, and her father was a cook in the Navy. â€œWe can make a difference and we will.â€
â€œDemocracy is not a spectator sport,â€ added Jo Daniels, a caregiver and missionary worker who travelled with Krueger from Albuquerque.
Krueger and Daniels, in between handing out black and white lapel pins with the WWP logo on it â€” an injured soldier being carried by another soldier â€” told guests that there will be events that Roswellians can attend in the near future to support WWP, including a two-day Christmas Home Tour Nov. 7 and 8 (more information at ohlalachristmas. org).
WWP was founded in 2003 with the goal of providing service members more than just â€œbrass bands and ticker tape parades,â€ according to its website. They offer a multitude of services for the military, including the aforementioned welcome back bookbags, care packages for soldiers abroad, caregiver retreats and counselling. They also offer vocational services for those about to retire from the military, like Scott Lilley.
His mother, Jolene, said he is currently stationed in San Antonio, Texas, and is preparing to medically retire.
â€œTheyâ€™re helping him write his resume and look at civilian jobs,â€ she said. â€œThey stick with you every step of the way, while youâ€™re in the military and even after you leave.â€