Retired SPC Ira Brownridge Jr.
Bullet wound to the head, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Spc. Ira Brownridge Jr. sustained a bullet wound to the head while deployed to Iraq in 2007. He underwent a number of lifesaving surgeries before returning to the United States to begin recovery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
During his year-long recovery at Walter Reed, Brownridge was introduced to the U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) and his first AW2 Advocate , Melvin Kearney, who was visiting the medical center at the time. Brownridge quickly developed a strong bond with Kearney, especially when they learned that they had been serving in the same zone in Iraq just months apart.
In addition to his physical injuries, Brownridge sustained post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that led him to socially withdraw. Kearney realized early on that Brownridge would benefit from joining organizations, taking courses and meeting other Veterans. Kearney helped Brownridge enroll in a communications and human relations course that Brownridge credits with giving him skills for interacting with his Family, managing his PTSD and breaking out of his shell. After completing the course, Brownridge built up the courage to participate as a guest speaker during the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System OEF/OIF Welcome Home Celebration and Car Show.
Kearney also invited Brownridge to interact with Veterans with similar experiences. Brownridge attended large-scale events such as a dinner hosted by a nonprofit to honor wounded warriors in New York City and joined a local Veterans Service Organization in Michigan. Kearney helped Brownridge realize how important it is to get out there and use the resources of these organizations. “You can have all the help in the world,” said Brownridge, “but if you aren’t willing to help yourself you’re just stuck.”
With Kearney’s help, Brownridge began to understand the importance of setting reasonable, achievable goals to avoid overwhelming himself with large-scale, long-term goals. For example, he is in training for a half marathon, but is starting with 5K races. “It’s a great honor to have someone like that in your corner,” Brownridge said of Kearney. “It’s having that person that’s not pushing you but giving you that positive attitude.”
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