Program Protects Single Wounded Warriors from Financial Opportunists

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By Sandra Basu

WASHINGTON — Single injured or wounded servicemembers might not have close family to take care of them when they return from deployment, and the financial compensation they receive can make them vulnerable to deceitful relationships.

That’s why a program offered by Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD) in collaboration with the United Service Organizations (USO) seeks to help patients make good decisions about romance and other relationships.

NMCSD and the USO recently designed the Single Wounded Warriors Retreat program for NMCSD’s single wounded, ill or injured troops as a way to help them cultivate healthy personal relationship skills.

“The major reason we developed this program was to offer to singles a service that we routinely offer to married couples and that is increasing their communication skills, increasing their skills to know their partner. … Mainly, this is a program that is geared toward helping singles develop a sense of awareness, so they do not fall prey to people taking advantage of them,” said Chaplain Walter Leverette, NMCSD comprehensive combat and complex casualty care pastoral care counselor.

Falling “prey” to dishonest people can happen to anyone, but wounded troops who are single face the challenge that they may come home and may not have immediate family close by. They may also be receiving additional financial compensation because of their injuries, Leverette explained.

Richard “Sunny” Farrand (left), member of the American Legion Post 434 in Chula Vista, CA, speaks with Marine LCpl Thomas C. Parker, assigned to Naval Medical Center San Diego’s (NMCSD) Marine Wounded Warrior Battalion-West detachment, during NMCSD’s Single Wounded Warrior Retreat program. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Clay M. Whaley)

“Quite often, people may know they are drawing a paycheck or that they have received money from the government, and we want to make sure they do not fall prey or are victimized,” said Leverette.

Leverette said the program uses material from “How to Avoid Marrying a Jerk,” a tool developed by John Van Epp, PhD, to help participants build positive relationship skills. The program is based on a model the author developed called the Relationship Attachment Model, which has five stages of relationship development.

To help educate participants about relationship skills, several games, a sit-down dinner and other activities are used. The participants also receive gifts donated to the USO by organizations.

The first daylong retreat for singles was held in October with 32 participants, and a second was planned for last month. Priority participants are those troops returning from Iraq or Afghanistan who are wounded or otherwise injured. The second-priority group are staff members from the hospital, followed by married couples who cannot make it to the Married Wounded Warrior Retreat, Leverette said.

While the program is not direct medical care, Leverette says he sees the skills taught at the retreat for singles as helpful to troops as they recover.

“It is something that would be very appropriate at all medical centers working with wounded and injured coming back from theater. These young men and women will be here for a number of months, if not a couple of years, going through rehabilitation,” he said. “We want to try to make sure that their medical rehabilitation, as well as their mental rehabilitation, is met. So once they leave here, from a medical and a mental-health standpoint, their relationship skills have been able to go through some remodeling and rejuvenation.”

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