Transitioning is Difficult, Having a Mentor Can Really Make a Difference

Published: Thursday, August 29, 2013
By Master At Arms Seaman April Beazer Public Affairs staff writer
Mark Miller, Wounded Warrior Mentor, talks with Will Thomas and his wife Chanelle about his upcoming below-the-knee amputation.

Mark Miller, Wounded Warrior Mentor, talks with Will Thomas and his wife Chanelle about his upcoming below-the-knee amputation.

Lee Miller, founder and Program Director for the Wounded Warrior Mentor Program (WWMP), stated that “Our mission is to transition [wounded, ill, and injured military] to a new life and profession.”

Founded in 2004, the WWMP started out with just four members, but quickly grew into a large volunteer program.

“We have been in business for 9 years,” Miller explains. “It started at the old Walter Reed. Three classmates of mine from West Point, class of 1958 [and myself] were attending events with the wounded warriors and we saw a gap. Everybody was doing everything for them. They were scuba diving, golfing, skiing, but they weren’t looking at the future. What are [the wounded, ill and injured military] going to do when you get discharged; nobody was working on that with them at all. That is when we saw this meaningful way to employ ourselves. We started with a very small group from my class of 58’ with mentors and we got other people involved to be mentors. So for nine years we built ourselves with lots of mentors.”

Lee Miller spoke on the process of signing up for the WWMP.

“We recruit wounded warriors and do a one hour intake interview, gather all of their information and figure out where they want to go; whether it is education, internships, or jobs,” said Miller. “We present opportunities for them and we go from there. We work very close with the staff, the occupational therapists (OT) and the Navy Safe Harbor program. We explain the opportunity to the wounded warrior and tell them what to do and then they go to their OT and arrange for an internship. The OT does the work but we guide them and send them their way, we don’t take their jobs.”

Spc. Eric Clark, a wounded warrior from the 3rd infantry division, Ft. Stewart, Ga., talks about all the different ways a mentor can help military during their transition.

“They are willing to help you with so many different things like the Veterans Affairs, the whole medical board process, getting internships and being prepared for your transition. Obviously there are tons of moving pieces in all of that; it’s a lot for one person to comprehend who has no idea about any of it. Having a mentor, who has dealt with it himself, helps me through it whenever I have questions.”

Mentors are there for wounded warriors, from the very first day all the way until they are transitioned out of the military.

“What I like about [having a mentor] is whenever I have a question; I can call him up and ask him. If he doesn’t know the answer, he will get the answer. We are working on doing tours of metal facilities because I want to be a welder,” said Clark. “He is helping me take a look at that to see if that is something I am still interested in. They are very, incredibly helpful.”

Having a mentor during the medical board process can really make a difference.

“I highly recommend [getting a mentor] because anyone who thinks that they can handle the medical board process on their own is wrong. It is ridiculous how complicated it is,” stated Clark. “Just having someone there to help you through it is incredible! It is more help than you can ever need. That is why I would recommend [getting a mentor]. It makes [the medical board process] a lot smoother.”

There are so many ways to find information about the WWMP and all it has to offer.

“We have a website, www.wwmp.us. We recruit here at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center every Wednesday; you can see our banner [in front of Building 62]. We recruit and interview on Wednesday from about 9a.m. to 2p.m.,” Miller said. “We also brief the warrior transition unit once a month and the Joint Task Force Cap Med brief where all the commanders are at the panel for 15 minutes. Every Friday we have an outpatient brief. When they come out of the ward, they have a brief and we speak there. We also get referrals from the outpatient managers and the OTs. That is how we get in contact with them.”

© 2013 Comprint Military Publications – ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.