Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Wounded Warrior Project Thinks of Small Things That Matter a Lot

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Wounded Warrior Project Thinks of Small Things That Matter a Lot

Article excerpt

Byline: CHRISTINA ABEL

A bookbag filled with underwear, socks, a toothbrush and a CD player may not seem like much, but to a hospitalized soldier, it can make a big difference.

When Kevin Crowell arrived at a hospital in Germany after his vehicle was blown up in Iraq, he didn't have anything except the clothes on his back. Thanks to the Wounded Warrior Project, based in Jacksonville, he received everything he needed, from sweatpants to a telephone calling card.

"You show up with nothing," Crowell said. "Even just getting a bag to put your things in is a big deal."

John Melia, the executive director of the project, has hundreds of stories like that. Since 2005, his nonprofit group has delivered about 12,000 bookbags to wounded soldiers in hospitals abroad and in the United States. Melia said that, with about 30,000 wounded soldiers in the Iraq conflict, they have a long way to go.

Melia was sitting in a hospital bed in 1992, after he was wounded in combat, with nothing of his own when he formulated the idea for the Wounded Warrior Project. About a decade later, the program took shape, not only delivering the bookbags to the soldiers but offering counseling, family assistance and advocacy. They also pay for wounded soldiers to get physically active again, by teaching them to snow board, ski, swim and kayak.

"Our motto is heal the body, heal the spirit," Melia said.

Melia talked about the group at a Ponte Vedra Beach Chamber of Commerce meeting Wednesday.

Lisa Crowell, Kevin Crowell's wife, was at the meeting. She said that until that meeting, she hadn't put together that the Wounded Warrior Project was responsible for giving her husband the basics he needed in Germany.

"It was amazing that they gave him all of that," Lisa Crowell said.

Crowell enlisted in the Army after high school in 1988 and served four years with the 82nd Airborne Division. …

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