I want to introduce you to “Doc” Ameen, Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Petty Officer, who sustained massive injuries while deployed with 2nd Battalion, 7th Marines, Fox Company in 2008. He enlisted in the Navy when he was 21 years old and was sworn into service on September 11th, 2002. While in Now Zad, Afghanistan, he stepped on an IED while running to save the life of a fellow Marine. The blast to his lower extremities took most of his leftfoot, which was later amputated and revised a few times due to an E Coli infection. His right Tibial shaft was literally shattered to bits. They placed an external fixator, also known as a Taylor Spatial Frame, to slowly move his bones back together utilizing pins and screws, which took a grueling eight months and was an extremely painful process. His right leg was pronounced limb-salvage, which means that they have considered several times to amputate, but fought to save it. Doc Ameen also battled MRSA (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus “Staph” Aureus), Osteomyalytis (chronic bone infection), and a reoccurring sinus-tract infection which resulted in over 22 surgeries. His left hand was shattered. He has a flat metal plate on the top of his hand, has endured reconstructive surgeries and had screws placed in his middle finger. All told, he has sustained 6-8 weeks of hospitalization, multiple surgeries, infections and hospital stays, and has endured more than 30 operations.
Doc Ameen began dating his girlfriend approximately six to eight weeks after becoming wounded. Cassie Jo and Doc Ameen were friends but began speaking more after his hospitalization and later fell in love. Even though Doc Ameen sustained such serious injuries, he carries on with a positive attitude and contagious enthusiasm for helping others. Doc Ameen founded Wings for Warriors, a 501(c)(3) status in March of 2011. The five stars in the logo represent each branch, as they offer help to any member from any service. I asked Doc Ameen why he started the organization, in his words:
I founded Wings for Warriors for a few reasons: I was a Corpsman for 8 years. I understand the medical side to a wounded warrior’s recovery. I was a wounded warrior on top of that. From seeing a physician not washing their hands before assessing their patients, to struggling with my health care, financial, and legal benefits I let my voice be heard, no matter the cost, or the rank. I stood up for myself and encouraged the other warriors to the same, but not everyone has what it takes to be heard. And lastly… I was pulled out of the fight and never got to finish due to being wounded on the battlefield. But through Wings for Warriors I feel as though I am still fighting for my country, and still saving lives in multiple aspects.
Some may have heard of the Wounded Warrior Project whose mission is to empower and honor wounded warriors. Doc Ameen felt that he could do something more specific to help other wounded veterans. Wings for Warriors’ mission is to provide necessary tools, insights and resources for wounded veterans as they go through the recovery process and transition into new realities. Wings for Warriors also provides aid for families purchasing airline tickets or by providing financial assistance so families can see their loved ones during critical health moments including surgeries, the recovery process, and more. Doc Ameen has personally experienced the day to day physical and mental hurdles, so he can relate to what other veterans face. He says, “there are a great deal of obstacles regarding the obtainment of healthcare, financial, and legal benefits as these wounded warriors either transition back into their units on active duty status, or whether they are transitioning out of the service into the civilian sector”. Wings for Warriors helps others navigate through the web of formalities to make the transition easier.
Although the organization has only been official for a few short months, in less than 90 days they were asked to be on NBC’s “Last Call with Carson Daly” and took on PepsiCo as an official sponsor. Wings for Warriors also had the privilege of hosting a group of Wounded Warriors at the 38th Annual Daytime Emmy Awards. I asked Doc Ameen what his proudest moment thus far has been with the organization. He replied, “Seeing how fast and successful this idea of mine is becoming. I am truly blessed”.
Many people want to know how to help those in our military who have been physically affected by war. Please consider bringing small gift bags for the injured at the Wounded Warrior wing at your local military hospital. Even a small gift that reminds them of home will be received with heartfelt thanks. Consider giving homemade cookies, chex mix, small chocolates, mints or similar items. For those who are looking to donate to a truly worthy program, please visit Wings for Warriors at www.wingsforwarriors.org. I want to issue you a challenge – before you buy that Starbucks latte or gourmet coffee, please use that money to donate even $5… we can all make a difference if we all pitch in.