Leading the Charge
The wounds and challenges faced by these vets are the same as those of their predecessors. But the mind-set? Not so much. These young men and women, who can communicate with their families and friends even during active duty via cell phones and the Internet, are more likely to seek community online than at the local VFW hall once they get home.
“The goal of the Wounded Warrior Project is really to work on healing mind, body and spirit for people that have been injured either physically or spiritually or mentally in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Melia explains. “Our mission is specific to the younger vets. It’s not that we don’t have any real affinity for the other generations of warriors out there, but we felt that there was a big generational gap between the Vietnam-era veterans and these folks, and that they needed a different kind of organization to serve their needs.
“This is very much the MySpace, Facebook, YouTube generation,” Melia adds. “Their needs are very different. They communicate differently; they interact differently. We often ask these folks, ‘Hey, why don’t we do a conference call,’ and they look at us like we’re crazy and say, ‘We don’t do conference calls; can we [e-chat], or can we get on a MySpace page?’”
(Many WWP staffers themselves are young, wounded vets who represent the organization’s constituency because they are the organization’s constituency.)
Melia recognizes that interacting with these vets, many of whom are still in their 20s when they return home, is different than even what he’s used to. Which explains why WWP is a different kind of organization. Call it, as Melia does, “the fresh face of veterans service.” And just as the organization’s approach to communication and service delivery is different, so, too, is its approach to fundraising.
Related story: Tips From John Melia, Wounded Warrior Project