Six years after the attacks on the World Trade Center, Jason Redman, a Navy SEAL, was deployed to Iraq. Though he had already completed a couple of wartime deployments, he said being seriously wounded was never something he considered—until it happened.
In September 2007, Redman was part of a mission that would forever change his life. During a raid on an enemy camp, a firefight broke out, and Jason was shot multiple times in his arm and once in his face.
After countless surgeries, stitches and skin grafts, Jason returned home from the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. When questioned about his injuries, most people thought they were the result of an automobile accident.
“That really opened my eyes,” Redman says. “So I wanted to raise awareness to the American people.”
Redman’s efforts started with a simple T-shirt and an organization called Wounded Wear, built in his own garage. To help other wounded warriors return to their lives, he sent the shirts to other service members who had been severely injured. The simple gesture grew over time into a kit—a backpack filled with clothing and other items meant to help wounded warriors reclaim their self-confidence. They send out about 400 kits every year, free of charge, to veterans that complete the registration process online. To qualify, a veteran needs only to provide documentation of their service and proof of receiving a Purple Heart.
“A lot of wounded warriors are struggling to fit back into a civilian society, and there are thousands out there that need help,” Redman says.
The organization, now called the Combat Wounded Coalition, has grown even more in recent years, and Redman has worked to increase efforts to support more wounded warriors. Proceeds from the Wounded Wear clothing line and various fundraisers are now used to support the veterans as they work toward overcoming whatever obstacles they face.
“Many of these veterans are coming home with traumatic brain injuries or post-traumatic stress disorders,” says Kenny Miller, the chief operating officer of Combat Wounded Coalition, who spent 22 years in the Navy.
To combat the complications, the Combat Wounded Coalition helps veterans find and cover treatment options that they’re comfortable with. When businesses offer free treatment to a veteran in need, the coalition will cover travel and accommodation expenses for the veteran while they receive the much-needed treatment. Since July 2015, Kenny estimates that they have provided more than $50,000 in assistance to veterans.
Twice a year, the coalition takes wounded warriors and Gold Star family members—those that have lost a family member in conflict—on a skydiving trip. Though it seems unorthodox, Redman says the idea behind it is what helped him face his recovery and continue his own life.
“We’re trying to show them that they can overcome their injuries no matter what,” Redman says. “Skydiving is scary and comes with a healthy amount of fear. But they can use that fear as a catalyst to overcome their obstacles.”
Bob Perkins, a Vietnam veteran, met Redman in 2008 after he heard about the injuries Redman had sustained. Perkins had also been shot in the face, just 36 hours after arriving in Vietnam in 1968, so he thought that maybe he could help Redman cope with the tremendous injury.
“Jason—he didn’t even need my help; he was just fine,” Perkins says, laughing.
Perkins stayed in touch with Redman over the years and watched as the coalition and its efforts grew, a process Perkins says is tremendous support for veterans in need.
“Nothing like that existed when I needed help,” Perkins says. “I had to do it on my own, and it was tough.”
For the last two years, Perkins has hoped to join Redman and other wounded warriors on a “Jumping for Purpose” skydiving trip. This year, Perkins’s doctors finally gave him the go-ahead. “To see them happy and in fellowship with other wounded warriors and family members—that’s the best part about the event,” Redman says.
Redman and the coalition members are overjoyed by the assistance that they’re able to provide to veterans but says they are still growing and expanding. “I always just want more,” Redman says. “I want to be able to do more.”