By Kyle Malloy, Navy Installations Command Public Affairs
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Navy Wounded Warrior (NWW) ‒ Safe Harbor hosted the 2017 Navy Region Southeast Family Symposium on Naval Air Station Jacksonville March 23.
Commander, Navy Region Southeast Rear Adm. Bette Bolivar gave opening remarks for the symposium, speaking about the region's commitment to NWW and recognizing the importance of the symposium.
"For many, providing care to a wounded, ill or injured service member is a full-time job and one that takes a heavy toll both physically and emotionally," said Bolivar. "Wounded warrior caregivers need a forum like this to help share their successes and frustrations while connecting with people who have provided similar assistance in the past."
She expressed gratitude for the panel members who volunteered to share their personal journeys and discuss their experiences with the symposium attendees.
"Each service member here today has a unique and valuable perspective," said Bolivar. "By sharing their personal stories, experiences and insights, our panelists can help ensure Navy Wounded Warrior provides the highest quality support to the caregivers of our current and future wounded warriors."
A panel of five wounded warriors and caregivers addressed the crowd and discussed the valuable services NWW has provided them during their recovery process.
"There were a lot of burdens taken off of us," said Alison Stephens, caregiver to her husband, Senior Chief Aviation Administrationman Jon Stephens. "It was just so unexpected, and it was really nice to not have to worry about certain things so we could focus on recovery."
"To have that teammate who helps create a plan and calls to check up on you takes a lot of pressure away," said Chief Machinist's Mate Scott Smith. "It's one of the best Navy programs and I'd love to shake the hands of those who founded it."
Barbara Baker, caregiver to her son, Seaman Adrian Kelly, drew a parallel from the emphasis of the Navy ethos on dedication and accountability when discussing her experience with the NWW program.
"The unwavering dedication, accountability, compassion and love by means of medical care, emotional support and financial assistance showed to Adrian and myself during this time validates the Navy Wounded Warrior family and community are not just about the self," said Baker. "I'm very grateful for all the support and all the assistance Navy Wounded Warrior has provided us."
The panel discussed a variety of topics ‒ from how to approach medical advice ‒ to dealing with financial stresses. Each member spoke about how their journey has affected them and the lessons they have learned from it.
"I continue to learn more every day," said Smith. "Trust your caregivers, trust Navy Wounded Warrior and don't be afraid to ask questions. Keep asking questions and don't sit back and wait."
"When you have a foundation of people that are there for you, let them help you," said Baker. "Whatever form of support that you're offered, accept it."
The family symposium served as an inviting platform for all participants to engage in honest dialogue regarding their experiences, share best practices and discuss how Navy Wounded Warrior has assisted them on their road to recovery. It was attended by wounded warriors, family members, caretakers, and senior leadership from both the Navy and Coast Guard.
"Thank you to the panel for your courage and bravery today. Your stories are so powerful and meaningful," said Navy Wounded Warrior Director Merissa Larson. "They help us know what is working while highlighting necessary changes in the service deliveries of the organization, helping us to continue to evolve and be a staple in the recovery process."
Navy Wounded Warrior ‒ Safe Harbor is the Navy's sole organization for coordinating the non-medical care of seriously wounded, ill and injured Sailors and Coast Guardsmen, and providing resources and support to their families. Through proactive leadership, the program provides individually-tailored assistance designed to optimize the success of the wounded warriors' recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration activities
Kyle Malloy is a contributing writer for the Navy Wounded Warrior-Safe Harbor program under Navy Installations Command.