The Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) and the Amputee Coalition of America (ACA) joined together on January 5-7 to expand the Military Amputee Peer Visitor Program with a train-the-trainer and peer-mentor training seminar at the Wounded Warrior Project’s headquarters in Jacksonville, Florida. At the event, 20 wounded warriors were certified as peer mentors.
Organized by the ACA, the peer-mentor seminar was conducted by three members of the Wounded Warrior Project who had previously participated in an ACA train-the-trainer seminar.
“We realize that often the most positive influence on the initial recovery of a seriously injured service member is the friendship and understanding of a fellow wounded warrior,” said Jim Mayer, director of peer mentoring and training for WWP.
Ryan Kules, 28, is one veteran who was certified as a peer-mentor trainer. Kules suffered severe injuries in 2005 while serving in Iraq, including blast injuries, hearing loss, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), and the loss of his right arm above the elbow and his left leg above the knee. He serves as program director of alumni retention for WWP.
“Being in the military, you have a sense of camaraderie, and being wounded with traumatic injuries takes you away from that,” Kules said. “Being able to talk to a peer who has undergone the same experience helps you regain that camaraderie.”
According to the ACA, the coalition standardized the training and certification of amputee peer visitors in 2001. The military peer-visitor protocol was initially developed through the ACA’s work with Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC), Washington DC, and was later expanded to provide support for armed services members with TBI, polytrauma, and other injuries. To date, the ACA has certified more than 200 military amputee peer visitors.
“In 2008, Wounded Warrior Project and the Amputee Coalition of America adapted the ACA’s training to incorporate a much-needed mentoring component for injured warriors, to encompass all injuries, including post-traumatic stress syndrome,” said Pat Isenberg, certified master trainer and ACA chief operating officer, who led the Jacksonville training.
WWP’s peer mentor program began using the ACA’s newly developed curricula in August 2008 to train the first 25 WWP peer mentors. In November 2008, the ACA certified seven WWP staff members as peer mentor trainers.
For more information about the Wounded Warrior Project, call 877.832.6997 or visit www.woundedwarriorproject.org. For more information about the Amputee Coalition of America, call 888.267.5669 or visit www.amputee-coalition.org