What happens to America’s ill and injured warriors when they can no longer be in the fight?
After enduring the demands of war in battlefields around the world, any task should seem easy for the heroic men and women of the United States military. Yet the reality paints a different picture. The aftermath is an untold story of heartache and healing, as warriors leave one fight just to take on another – except they’re now ill or injured, have no training or preparation for what happens next, and for the first time, feel they’re fighting the battle alone.
Ill and injured warriors quietly endure an enormous amount of fear, uncertainty and self-doubt when they’re told they can no longer be in the military. In many ways, the world no longer makes sense. They may struggle to cope with post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, new prosthetic limbs, rehabilitation, a changing identity, and the seemingly enormous task of learning how to be a Mister or Miss instead of a corporal or sergeant.
The Missing Link: Freedom Station
Warrior Foundation Freedom Station realized there was a missing link in one crucial place – the transition from military service to civilian life. During this period, warriors are at the highest risk of homelessness, joblessness, and physical and emotional distress. In 2011, we pioneered a new concept designed to address the needs of transitioning warriors. When Freedom Station opened its doors, it became the first transitional housing residence of its kind in the San Diego region – a place for healing, personal growth and preparation for the new opportunities that await in civilian life.
Each of the charming cottages and apartments is fully furnished, move-in ready and stocked with basic household necessities. The idea was to shift warriors from a “barracks mentality” to independent living. The central courtyard and interconnected spaces offered warriors the sense of camaraderie that is so crucial during the transition period. They recover among their peers, share war stories, and know they are supported by others experiencing the same transition.
During this critical time, warriors face many decisions that will affect the rest of their lives. They need help choosing a new career, enrolling in college or vocational schools, and learning how to manage personal finances – all while continuing to undergo medical treatment and rehabilitation. Warrior Foundation Freedom Station provides access to professionals and qualified volunteers who assist with issues relevant to transitioning to civilian life.
How does Freedom Station differ from other military housing and transitional facilities?
Freedom Station proudly provides a hand up, not a handout. Many military housing facilities do not charge their residents any rent – an unrealistic preparation for real-world living. Our residents pay reduced rent so they can learn how to save, budget and be financially responsible.
Most military housing facilities also work with service members after they have already been discharged from the military. Freedom Station moves warriors in before they leave the service, giving them the necessary time to acclimate. To not do so in the manner we have constructed at Freedom Station would be very hard and stressful on our service members
Journey to a New Life
Freedom Station measures the success of our program by our residents’ ability to demonstrate a successful transition from the military to civilian life, and engagement in society as self-sufficient, productive and contributing citizens.
Since 2011, dozens of injured warriors have lived at Freedom Station and validated the concept of a transitional environment for servicemen and women as they return to life outside the military. These “graduates” and success stories have gone on to enroll in college and vocational schools, establish fulfilling new careers, secure long-term independent housing, start families of their own, and manage continuing care for their injuries.
Freedom Station has proven that the existence of a supportive transitional environment truly makes the difference for ill and injured warriors as they begin a new journey outside the service.