It all started with a razor.
Warrior Foundation-Freedom Station is the result of years of labor and love by Navy Wife and Mom Sandy Lehmkuhler and Mr. Jim Bedinger CDR/POW/Navy Retired, as well as a dedicated team of patriotic citizens. While volunteering at Naval Medical Center San Diego in 2004, Ms. Lehmkuhler was distraught to find that the hospital’s injured were lacking some basic quality-of-life items. Spurred by a conversation with two amputees who required special electric razors for shaving, she went on the radio to make a plea for donations and the organization was born. Since then, Warrior Foundation-Freedom Station has been dedicated to assisting military men and women who have served our country in the War Against Terrorism. The Foundation provides every kind of support imaginable, from airfare and hotel rooms for parents coming to their injured children’s bedsides, special sunglasses for those whose retinas detached after IED blasts, modified combat boots for prosthetic limbs, and hundreds of plane tickets to send warriors home for Christmas.
The day you find out you can no longer be in the military is a hard day.
In her work, Ms. Lehmkuhler realized there was a specific group of warriors who needed assistance in one crucial area – the transition from military to civilian life. The day that a Marine, Soldier or Sailor is told that they can no longer be in the military as a result of his or her injuries is a very hard day. This particular group of warriors often enters a period fraught with fear, uncertainty and self-doubt as they await their medical retirement. It is during this critical transition that many veterans fall through the cracks and are at risk of joblessness and/or homelessness, as evidenced by Vietnam-era veterans that still constitute one of America’s largest homeless populations.
The Missing Link: housing and services to help injured warriors prepare for civilian life.
While they may not be in a war zone anymore, our injured servicemen and women face new challenges when they return home – the often untold story of coping with injuries, rehabilitation and a transition to civilian life. So we delivered what our military members were asking for – a recovery transition center called Freedom Station. This home for heroes would serve as the “missing link” and proactively combat veteran homelessness and joblessness, instead of react to it once it was too late. With this vision in mind, Freedom Station celebrated its grand opening in May 2011.
Freedom Station fills the void in San Diego for a transitional environment that servicemen and women often lack as they return to life outside of the military. Many troops who have been injured in combat return home with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), spinal cord injuries, amputations, traumatic brain injuries (TBI), burns and blindness. They find themselves not only coping with injuries, but facing medical retirement and an uncertain new life outside of the Armed Forces. Freedom Station creates a transitional period for acclimating to civilian life and also serves as a “training ground” for challenges ranging from new careers and college entry to monthly budgeting and home buying.
The 12-unit housing complex was selected partly for its location just minutes away from Naval Medical Center San Diego. The proximity to the hospital allows easier access for the Warriors to receive the medical treatment that is so important to their physical and emotional recovery. During this critical time, warriors also face many decisions that would affect the rest of their lives. They need help pursuing a career, choosing and enrolling in a college or vocational school, learning how to properly manage finances, and locating or purchasing independent housing. Warrior Foundation~Freedom Station provides assistance with access to, professionals and qualified volunteers who assist with educational and career guidance, and other issues relevant to transitioning to civilian life. We provide these services to our residents because we believe a helping hand at this crucial point is the best way to help them solve issues caused by wartime.
Journey to a new life.
The journeys of our “graduates” and other success stories is evidence that the existence of a supportive, transitional environment for our military men and women can make all the difference. Warrior-Foundation-Freedom Station continues to meet the needs of our military heroes and ensure their successful transition to be self-sufficient, productive and contributing members of society. We are proud of the success of Freedom Station. However, we are most proud of the Warriors that have overcome many obstacles and our now well on their way to living a full and productive life.