A bit about WHOA.
Wounded Heroes of America is a regional foundation with limited resources. That, of course, has some disadvantages, but it also has some benefits. While we don't have the great name recognition or the deep pockets, we have been able to find ways to get the work done, and in many ways more efficiently and more personally than the much larger foundations we see on TV do. For those we've had the opportunity to help, we've been a safety net, an extended family, and in many cases, for years. Operating in that manner makes more of an impact on the veterans' lives than when people come in, do one thing, and then leave.
It's not only about financial help. Due to the nature of some of the injuries like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) - which is actually not a disorder but rather what happens after a person experiences war-and traumatic brain injury (TBI), and the challenges associated with them, depression, isolation, and destructive behavior can become habitual if left untreated.  
We're not trained mental health professionals, and we don't pretend to be, but you don't have to be a professional in the area of mental health to identify when a family is hurting financially and to then send them a few dollars now and then, to bring them into contact with other wounded combat vets who suffer from PTSD, to bring the vets' kids together so that they can play and have fun every now and then, to find community leaders who feel the way we do and who are willing to share their resources and influence to help our vets, to create a long-term partnership with the community, and to show and encourage others that one person, like you, can make a difference in the lives of our bravest citizens, men and women who have sacrificed so much for all of us.  

One of our best friends and partners is the Crane Fund for Widows and Children. Their generosity helps fund two of our favorite programs - Mothers Day and Christmas. Nora Walsh and Rachida Green with the Crane Fund presenting a $3700.00 check to Mike Talleda of Wounded Heroes of America. It is this sort of community based support that makes what we do possible.
The down side of being a smaller regional foundation and not having more resources is obvious; we can help only a limited number of people. But being small doesn't mean we can't do big things. Being regional versus being national has its advantages. Being regional, we need only a couple of hours to drive somewhere to meet, to have events, to maintain routine contact. 
In addition to our monthly dinners at the El Cholo restaurant, compliments of the owner-and our friend-Ron Salisbury, we've had baby showers, bike rides, educational classes, BBQs, and more. Those events are how we build our fellowship, how we stay connected, and how we provide information, like when we learned that a foundation was giving mortgage-free homes to wounded combat vets, which resulted in 12 of our vets receiving mortgage-free homes. 

In addition to our monthly dinners at the El Cholo restaurant, compliments of
the owner-and our friend-Ron Salisbury, we've had baby showers, bike rides, educational classes, BBQs, and more. Those events are how we build our fellowship, how we stay connected, and how we provide information, like when we learned that a foundation was giving mortgage-free homes to wounded combat vets, which resulted in 12 of our vets receiving mortgage-free homes.  

Our Day at The Ranch

We at Wounded Heroes of America do it with the help of our friends. We recently had our 2nd Annual Day at the Ranch, which is an event that's completely free for vets and their families and includes activities like pony rides and archery. This year we had nearly 100 people enjoying time away from everything, watching their children play and partake in a variety of fun diversions. It's a partnership with the community to improve the lives of our wounded combat veterans.
Thanks to the folks at Horse of the Sun Ranch, who have a tremendous love
for our veterans, we have created a day once a year that we can come together in fellowship, where kids, parents, and community volunteers become closer and when done, everyone is delighted and says that next year will be even bigger and better.

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About a year ago I got a call from Alroy Billiman, a Native American who was one of the first wounded vets we helped. He asked about assisting a few Navajos from his reservation, one of whom was a Marine who was going through a rough patch and needed a hand. I expected the Marine's name to be something like Blackfoot or White Eagle, but his name was West James. That was my first realization of how ignorant I was regarding Native American culture. I met Alroy in 2007 at a ceremony in Long Beach, VA, at which he and a few other vets were awarded purple hearts. Since those days, Alroy, who's an amputee due to an IED in Iraq, has overcome his share of personal battles and has become an exemplary person, helping others on the reservation deal with an array of complicated issues. He's an inspirational young man.
I asked him what sort of help was available to the vets on the Navajo  reservation, which is in
Northeast Arizona and straddles Utah, New Mexico, and Colorado, and the answer was essentially "not much". The nearest VA System is in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which means that some Navajos on the reservation have to drive three hours for assistance. Because we've worked with so many wounded vets, we know more than most that having easy access to a VA facility is of paramount importance to wounded vets. Here in California, especially in Southern California, vets have a VA hospital less than an hour from home. They also have VA clinics and Vet Centers in abundance. Not so for the Navajo veterans. 
As part of a Navajo Veterans Act that recently passed, the president of the Navajo Nation listed three areas that he sees as immediate priorities in assisting the veterans: housing, medical benefits, and behavioral health.
President Begaye said, "We need homes for veterans, and this need will be addressed as this Act is passed. We also need a veteran's hospital here on the Navajo Nation, as our veterans spend much time and money traveling to and from their appointments. Many of our veterĀ­ans who have returned from active duty suffer from post-trauĀ­matic stress disorder. We need to help them, as they have sacrificed for our freedom."
There are many issues in regards to Native American Veterans, but to simplify them we'll start with West James. His experience is not uncommon among those veterans living on a Reservation. These are things that wouldn't happen here in Los Angeles. For example, in order to receive their earned benefits, a veteran must apply for them (obviously) but the issue on the reservation is that the nearest VA System is two or three hours away. They don't have access to critical information about what is available to them. Many of these veterans are no doubt living with PTSD, TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) and other service-related injuries as well as subsequent issues like alcohol dependence, depression, and unemployment. No one is helping them file their claims. No one is advising them about where to go and who to see. They don't have the opportunities to seek out information and get help. It would be different if they knew how to access the information or had someone to help them, but they don't. This is because there is no community facility where information can be disseminated. 
We brought West to Los Angeles and set him up with a temporary place to stay. One of our vets took West under his wing and helped him file his claim for service-related injuries and compensation. With the help of our friends in South Bay Rotary Club, we were able to have a car donated and WHOA paid to have West reinstated in the University of Phoenix, where he needs to complete only three classes in order to earn his BA.
Now what West does is largely up to him, but anyone who has put on the uniform and risked his or her life for our freedom should, at the very least, be treated with dignity, respect, and receive the benefits they've earned. West is back in Arizona and we hope that he will continue his education and pursue the claim for his benefits, which he has rightfully earned. 
We want to strengthen our connection with our Native American brothers in arms. They have a rich tradition of serving our country, but often times do not get the help they deserve. It's a learning process that we hope we can both benefit from. 

Upcoming Events
Mark your calendars and come out to join WHOA and support our veterans.

Saturday - April 30, 2016 (8PM-1AM)

Les Bon Temps Roulette
The Regency West
3339 W. 43rd St
Lod Angeles, CA 90008

Donations as low as $45
Cash Prizes for most original costume

Sunday - May 15, 2016 (1PM-5PM)

South Bay Beer and Wine Festival
Ernie Howlett Park
25851 Hawthorne Blvd.
Rolling Hills Estates, CA 90274

Saturday - June 4, 2016  (7PM-11PM)

Casino Night
Knight of Columbus 
Council #4567
American Martyrs O'Donnel Hall 
624 15th Street
Manhattan Beach, CA 

Wounded Heroes of America | (310) 355-0266 | woundedheroesofamerica.org