Wounded Warrior Project—Honoring and Empowering America’s Heroes

May 2015 View more


Sgt. Alberto Lopez, Outreach Coordinator

When Sgt. Alberto Lopez was released from the U.S. Marine Corps., he returned home as a wounded warrior. He had suffered two injuries during his service between 1999 and 2008, including a deviated spinal cord injury. He knew his next step was education, spending more time with his wife and young family, and finding a civilian job. So when a representative from the Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) reached out to him and offered help, he politely declined. “I didn’t think the organization was for me, but I wanted to do what I could to help my brothers and sisters in arms,” said Lopez. He began volunteering for the organization and grew to love and respect their mission: to honor and empower wounded warriors. Lopez completed school at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and then took his first job outside the military as the WWP outreach coordinator for four states, including Illinois.

Healing The Wounds

The Wounded Warrior Project® is a non-profit, nationwide veteran outreach program for service men and women in need of assistance as they transition into civilian life. The organization is in its 11th year and currently serves more than 60,000 service men and women nationwide with about 5,600 warriors in Lopez’s region. Servicemen and women in WWP have both visual injuries (amputations, burns, etc.) and non-visual (mental health, hidden scars, and rehabilitative injuries). WWP programs comprehensively address the warrior’s needs related to mind, body, economic empowerment and community engagement. From help with post traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), to adaptive sports and rehabilitation, to job-seeking assistance or assistance with government benefits, the WWP is available to qualified service personnel and their families.

According to the organization’s website, WWPconcentrates on post-911 veterans and service members who have suffered physical or mental wounds and injuries from military operations in Afghanistan and the Middle East. All WWP programs and events are free to the participants since the service men and women have already paid their dues by serving their country.

“I tell them it’s not about what we can give you. We are grateful for your service and you’ve earned this. We want to make sure you have everything you need,” Lopez said.

More Than Care and Comfort

The organization got its start with a Backpack Program for wounded service members in trauma centers and hospitals. As part of the program, a new backpack is left bedside filled with care and comfort items including clothing and calling cards. Now, once home, wounded warriors have access to services, programs, volunteers and liaisons, like Lopez, who actively plan engaging, inclusive events for warriors and their families, like an afternoon at the DuPage Children’s Museum, or a golf clinic with Freedom Golf Association, an organization that brings the joy of golf to those with special needs. Lopez is currently working on an event with iFly, an indoor skydiving organization, and possibilities with Ribfest and Last Fling.

Lopez remembers a recent emotional moment he encountered at the Field Museum in Chicago. A warrior came up to him with tears in his eyes, thanking Lopez for planning the event. The warrior had just met a fellow serviceman at the event and discovered they had a mutual acquaintance who had been killed in action. He never would have met the man or known what happened to his friend without WWP. “I just hugged him,” said Lopez. “It’s that battle buddy mentality, they can talk to me when they need someone to talk to.”

Lopez has earned many thanks from the warriors he has worked with but feels he is the one who owes the most thanks. “I just keep thanking them in every email and in every conversation. They’ve earned it.”

For more information about the Wounded Warriors project, visit www.woundedwarriorproject.org.

Photo by Robyn Sheldon