by Brig. Gen. Thomas W. Kula
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
DALLAS - The U.S. Army, which I have proudly served in for more than 30 years, has a saying: “Once a soldier, a soldier for life.” This concept is shared across all our military services. Those who have served, whether a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine, will always be part of that great community of men and women who have put on a uniform and served this nation.
On a broader scale, our soldiers are also part of the noble American tradition of citizen-soldiers who embody the will of the people directly because they are the people. Americans who serve in our military come from our local communities and return to their families in these local communities when their service has ended. Sadly, because of the nature of war, some return injured. We call these our Wounded Warriors, and to these all Americans owe a special debt of gratitude—though, when you meet a Wounded Warrior, you will see that gratitude is not what they seek. They seek new beginnings and opportunities to transition to a productive and fulfilling civilian life.
The Army Corps of Engineers has long been an advocate of highlighting these Wounded Warriors and helping them in their transitions. We are involved in several programs that have helped provide employment to Wounded Warriors, as well as programs to integrate them back into American life.
In the area of employment, we support the Operation Warfighter Program, as well as the Army’s Wounded Warrior Program and the Federal Government’s Vocational Employment and Rehabilitation Program. We have 14 Wounded Warriors working in our Fort Worth District offices alone, and aiming for a higher number. But there are many Wounded Warriors who do not come through these programs; most return to their communities and seek rehabilitation, training and employment there. We ask the communities across the Southwestern Division region to welcome these great Americans who have sacrificed so much, provide them opportunity and help them transition back to into a civilian life.
Just recently, our Fort Worth District hosted a “Take a Warrior Fishing” day at Grapevine Lake. By partnering with almost three dozen local businesses and groups who provided rods, reels, tackle bags, fishing kits and boats, this day-long event honored some of our area Wounded Warriors and their families. The “Take a Warrior Fishing” program was established in 2011 to support military personnel and their families by creating an adaptive community-based outdoor recreation experience through the sport of fishing. The main goals of this program are to restore well-being by increasing family interaction, encouraging outdoor recreation, and supporting positive, social interactions that help transitioning service members rebuild connections with the civilian world.
We have hosted other events as well, always partnering with our local communities and businesses in our region. Recently, we worked with more than 70 members of “The Mission Continues,” a national community service organization that encourages and aids volunteerism by disabled and wounded veterans. These veterans cleaned out woods and planted trees in the Dallas Floodway System — giving back to the community, because they are an integral part of the community. This story is repeated throughout the states that make up the Southwestern Division, from Texas to Arkansas to Oklahoma and beyond!
The Army is committed to lifelong success for our soldiers, veterans, and their families. Supporting our soldiers and Army veterans — and veterans of all branches of service — requires a team approach by the Army, other government agencies, and the local community. If you seek opportunities to assist our Wounded Warriors or if you know of opportunities to assist them, we are ready to facilitate! You can contact us anytime at www.swd.usace.army.mil, or click on the commander icon on that website, to connect directly with me. Let us all work together ensure that those who gave so much for us are given opportunities in return.
(Note: November is "Warrior Care" Month,” which began in 2008 and is observed by all the military services every November. This is a time to reaffirm a commitment to quality health care, education and careers for our Nation's wounded, ill and injured service members.)