Battalion helps wounded warriors find new purpose

GARDEN CITY—Chaplain Daniel A. Sorenson listened sympathetically to the young man sitting in his office. They were talking about a visit that his group — the Wounded Warrior Battalion — was making to St. Michael School in Garden City.

The servicemen — members of the U.S. Navy or Marines who had been wounded in battle — were going to  thank the children for the cards they made, talk about their  war experience and answer questions.

This particular Marine was nervous. He explained that he would have to wear his short-sleeve dress shirt, which would reveal the scars that twisted along his arms, left there by exiting bullets. He was worried the children would be scared.

They weren’t. People at the event said no one even noticed the scars.

“That’s why it’s so therapeutic for the Marines to do these community outreach type of things,” said Chaplain Sorenson, who is also a [Navy] lieutenant. “They’re so aware of the injury, but then nobody else even notices.”

The Wounded Warrior Battalion was established five years ago to take care of  wounded, ill and injured Marines and their families as they heal and transition back to   daily life. They operate out of Camp Lejeune, N.C., and Camp Pendleton, Calif.

One of the most important things the transition team does is help decide what’s next. Maybe a Marine can no longer be a gunner, but he’s still called to do something.

Team members help each warrior discern what God’s calling him to next, and then set up a plan to get him there. Along the way, community support can make a big  difference.

Sorenson said they always need different things, and suggests people call one of the  battalions to ask how they can help. Sometimes they seek Bibles for study sessions, other times they need groups to sponsor a summer camp session for the child of a wounded warrior.

Candies and cookies are not always the right answer for servicemen and women fighting to remain fit, especially when healing.

Of course, cards and letters can always lift the spirits of a Marine or sailor who is making their way back from a devastating event.

“That kind of support reminds them that people are thinking about them, and that they do still care,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class David Ebel, who assists the chaplain.

The letters also remind the soldiers why they’re out there in the first place by giving them a glimpse of who they’re protecting back home, Sorenson said.

Linda Cherry, principal of St. Andrew, said her students wrote letters this year at the request of the Knights of Columbus. Then the warriors in turn visited the school to say thank you, and it turned into such a positive experience that more letters are sure to follow.

Students were fascinated by the stories, and asked the servicemen lots of questions.

The toughest was from a boy who wanted to know what the worst injury was. The warriors stared for a minute, then all turned to look at the chaplain. Sorenson explained that the worst wounds were often on the inside, and could cause people to be sad or angry even though they look fine on the outside.

He told the students their letters were important because they helped heal this type of injury, Cherry said. As they headed back to class, the students talked about what they would put in their next letter to help the Marines feel better.

Updated: May 22, 2012.