7/30/2013 – TYNDALL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. (AFNS) – No warrior left behind – a commitment at the heart of every member of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal community. Now, two groups that have supported EOD families in times of need have joined to expand their outreach and strengthen that promise.
The EOD Warrior Foundation was founded in March 2013 through the merging of the EOD Memorial Foundation and Wounded EOD Warrior Foundation. In addition to maintaining the EOD Memorial Wall at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., this not-for-profit group helps wounded EOD heroes and the families of EOD fallen by providing financial, emotional and social support. The foundation also provides scholarships for family members, and organizes retreats and events to raise awareness of the sacrifices EOD servicemen and women make.
“It’s a joint community effort to look after those families whose loved ones have paid the ultimate price, as well as our wounded,” said Chief Master Sgt. James Brewster, Air Force EOD career field manager. “The fallen, the wounded and the families are the beneficiaries. We’re fortunate to have this organization to help care for them.”
Approximately 7,000 men and women serve in what is considered one of the military’s most stressful and dangerous jobs as EOD technicians in the Air Force, Army, Marines and Navy.
Over the past decade, EOD technicians have been in high demand as their role has expanded beyond traditional bomb disposal to include disarming and destroying improvised explosive devices, or IEDs. The hazards EOD men and women face can all too often result in severe and life-changing physical and emotional wounds.
“Our wounded EOD technicians can suffer a variety of serious injuries from loss of limbs to traumatic brain injury,” said Nicole Motsek, EOD Warrior Foundation executive director. “The wounds often result in extended medical treatment and care. We’re working with the active-duty force and building relationships with the families to understand those needs and be in position to respond now and in the future.”
EOD Warrior Foundation members meet each of the EOD wounded at the hospital and provide an initial financial grant to help pay for early expenses not covered by Department of Veterans Affairs benefits.
“We also provide an iPad and connectivity,” said Motsek. “We’ve seen it’s critical for them to be able stay in touch with the outside world, especially with their brothers and sisters still deployed.
The foundation’s involvement with the wounded EOD member and their family is on-going, Motsek said. They also provide opportunities to apply for additional financial grants and organize retreats for both the wounded as well as their caregivers as a chance for each to bond and share experiences with others.
“We believe part of the healing process for them is to be able to find support from people in similar situations,” said Motsek. “Providing caregivers with an opportunity to step back from the day-to-day care of their loved one and talk to each other is beneficial.”
The group also offers similar retreats for the families of the EOD fallen, Motsek said.
Last year, the foundation provided $97,000 in college scholarships to EOD family members with a priority given to those of EOD fallen and wounded.
“We are still very active in the scholarship arena and are looking at ways we can offer more,” said Motsek. “In addition to tuition or tuition assistance, we hope to have resources in the near future to enable us to walk applicants through the post-9/11 GI Bill. We want to be able to connect them with additional resources that will help them secure as much assistance as possible to further their education.”
The care of the EOD Memorial Wall at Eglin AFB is one of the group’s most sacred missions. Currently, the wall displays 298 names of EOD warriors killed since World War II. Each May, names of EOD warriors killed in action during the past year are added during a memorial service and the foundation provides travel expenses for the families of those being memorialized. The organization has also created a virtual memorial of EOD killed since 9/11 on its website.
“The EOD Warrior Foundation remembers those who have made the ultimate sacrifice as well as honors and supports their loved ones through this hardship,” said Brewster. “It’s not something that ends. They offer support to the families down the road as well. They understand the EOD family is for life.”
For more information on the EOD Warrior Foundation, visit www.eodwarriorfoundtion.org.