NEW YORK, Dec. 3, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- When recently retired U.S. Army staff sergeant Ron Hurtado looks back on his service, he does so with a great amount of pride. Hurtado considers himself a natural leader and someone that all people, especially his fellow soldiers, could always feel comfortable going to with their problems.
Upon returning home from deployment to Afghanistan in 2007, Hurtado dealt with the invisible wounds of war in multiple ways. Not only did he sustain a traumatic brain injury (TBI) while overseas, he also was affected by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). He felt the need to hide the issues he was dealing with, and felt that he had lost his sense of purpose. It wasn't until he became involved with Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) that he began to rediscover his identity as someone his fellow veterans could turn to for help.
"I always thought you needed visible wounds to be a part of WWP," Hurtado says. "Once I saw that was not the case, I wasn't alone, and that other people were going through the same stuff, I realized that I didn't need to hide the things I was going through."
Now a peer mentor in the WWP Peer Support program, Hurtado is able to use his leadership abilities to help his fellow service members overcome challenges similar to the ones he has faced. "I can relate to a lot of what they are going through," says Hurtado. "I know what it is like to be that person who says, 'There's nothing wrong,' and I want to let my mentees know that they aren't alone."
After being introduced to the sport of cycling through WWP's Soldier Ride, an adaptive cycling program that often serves as an introduction to WWP programs, Hurtado was inspired to get his own bike and even began participating in triathlons. Once he began those competitions, he found it was a great way to stay active and form camaraderie with his fellow warriors.
Hurtado now has his own triathlon team, made up of fellow veterans – several of whom he has mentored through WWP. "It has turned into a sort of peer support group. We meet, train together, and motivate each other. We don't let each other quit," says Hurtado. "It's truly motivating and inspiring to know that you can have an impact on a fellow veteran's life."
The WWP Peer Support program is offered as part of the organization's Mind pillar, which provides injured service members with the tools needed to overcome the stigmas associated with mental health issues. Through interactive programs designed to empower each service member to maintain healthy relationships and achieve life goals, the Mind pillar of WWP serves the organization's vision of fostering the most successful, well-adjusted generation of wounded service members in our nation's history.
For more information on WWP, its programs and services, and how to give back, please visit woundedwarriorproject.org. To learn more about 2015 Annual WWP Alumni Survey, the largest collection of data on this generation of injured service members ever collected, visit woundedwarriorproject.org/survey.
About Wounded Warrior Project
The mission of Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) is to honor and empower Wounded Warriors. WWP's purpose is to raise awareness and to enlist the public's aid for the needs of injured service members, to help injured servicemen and women aid and assist each other, and to provide unique, direct programs and services to meet their needs. WWP is a national, nonpartisan organization headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida. To get involved and learn more, visit woundedwarriorproject.org.
SOURCE Wounded Warrior Project