Wounded Warriors REACH for the Future

Bowen Blog Reach

Katherine Shapleigh, writer

Some wounded warriors trade combat boots and flight suits for lab coats and stethoscopes, moving from military service to medicine.

Hundreds of them have had the support of the Reintegrate, Educate and Advance Combatants in Healthcare program as they’ve made this transition. This Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery career coaching program launched in 2011 and concluded on June 10 of this year. We assumed program management of REACH in June 2015.

Through the program, wounded warriors have received support at seven military treatment facilities. Our career coaches have ensured success each step of the way by increasing awareness of the program and conducting initial assessment and enrollment, training and career coaching, placement and hiring, and more. Career paths have included dental assistant, health administrator, nurse, occupational therapist, physical therapist and physician assistant.

The stories of REACH participants are nothing short of inspirational.

There’s the infantry Marine who survived an anti-tank mine in Afghanistan.

“Too many Marines feel that the only options after the military are the police force, prison guard or security,” the aspiring doctor says. “I dared to believe, I dared to be different, and with the help of the REACH program, I have the tools to succeed. The REACH program allowed me to realize my full potential.”

He says he would not be where he is today “without the Marine Corps, Wounded Warrior Regiment and the REACH program.”

Another participant received serious injuries as a pedestrian shortly after returning home from Afghanistan. He discovered the REACH program while receiving care at Naval Medical Center San Diego.  

“As a direct result of being in the REACH program, I had a purpose during my recovery, confirmed my choice of career, found a mentor, obtained a job after retirement,” he says, and was able to “document opportunities that will help me to obtain my career goal of being a medical physician. Without the REACH program, I wouldn’t have the same chances of success that I do now.”

One of his peers entered the program after sustaining a traumatic brain injury. She says REACH and the Wounded Warrior Regiment have “been a dynamic catalyst in my life when I needed it the most … It began to give me hope again.”

Another says that “when I knew I would not be able to return to full duty and continue my service as a Marine, I hit a wall in my life” but “the first day I was brought into a lab, I was like a kid on Christmas Day. … I am endlessly thankful for REACH and my career coaches.”

Nothing is more meaningful to us than making a positive impact on the health and wellness of individuals, families and communities. We accomplish this, in part, through the strength of our strategic communications. Our program team saw the number of students increase 87 percent in fiscal 2016 — and celebrated 79 graduations. As of this April, a total of 309 active-duty service members and veterans are proud graduates of REACH.

Thank you to Jay Senter (program manager), Dawn Cheetham (coach manager and job placement specialist) and career coaches Leigh Hammer in Jacksonville, Lyra Hornseth in the metro Washington region, Trini O’Con in Portsmouth, Kevin Kesterson and Debbie Pryer at Camp Lejeune, Ron Hoffman in San Diego and Jeff Tanner at Camp Pendleton. We also thank our program partners, Apogee Solutions and Three Wire Systems, and the Navy’s Bureau of Medicine and Surgery for the opportunity to collaborate on this important program.

Team members have received recognition for their promotion of the REACH program, earning a Communicator Award of Distinction shortly after winning a Blue Pencil & Gold Screen Award from the National Association of Government Communicators.

It has been The Bowen Group’s honor to help make a difference in the lives of our nation’s wounded warriors, and we wish them the very best as they continue to reach for the future!