CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. — At Camp Lejeune, in North Carolina, a group of military wives rallied around one of their own when her husband came home from Iraq severely wounded.
What emerged was "Hope for the Warriors," a grassroots effort to ease the transition for soldiers and Marines and their families into a whole new lifestyle, filled with all-new challenges. For some of those injured at war, the program is a dream come true.
Second Lt. Andrew Kinard survived a touch-and-go five months at two military hospitals.
"It's led me to an entirely new perspective on life," Kinard says. "I don't look at what I lost. I look at what I still have."
What he has is unyielding support from "Hope for the Warriors," an upstart program at Camp LeJeune led by three marine wives.
"When my husband came back wounded, we realized that it not only affected the service member and the immediate family, it affected the community as a whole," says Shannon Maxwell, co-founder of Hope for Warriors.
So, they revved up the community and raised more than $400,000 — all to make these warriors' wishes — everything from vacations to home down payments — their command. And their comfort, too.
"It's a control in that I can see that things are going to be OK," says Robin Kelleher, another co-founder. "And that life goes on. And that life can be OK if something were to happen."
Lt. Kinard stepped on an artillery shell seven weeks into his tour in Iraq. Hope for the Warriros arranged for fancy new wheels, a specially equipped van, and use of a Warrior house for his stay on base.
While those things certainly will help Lt. Kinard, he says his wish was to see his battalion again at a homecoming, and to get a piece of information from his Marines — exactly what happened the day he lost his legs.
And at the homecoming, one by one, the faces were familiar again. Only the hugs were new.
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"The war's going to go away, but our wounded community will not. Our families will not," says Warriors co-founder Tina Atherall.
Hope for the Warriors, they vow, will go on as well.
"Now I can look at my guys and say, 'Hey, well done. Well done here,'" Kinard says.
Until mission accomplished.
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