JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There were no screams -- just smiles -- at a Halloween party put on by Wounded Warrior Project in Jacksonville. The nonprofit invited local wounded warriors, their families and caregivers for an afternoon of fun inside their "not-so-haunted" headquarters.
Wounded Warrior Project staff transformed their office space into a Halloween fun zone. Cubicles and hallways were made into themed adventures. More than 50 warriors and guests -- even service animals -- came dressed in costume and made their way through the decorated building like a maze, enjoying games, candy and other Halloween treats around every corner.
To date, it is estimated that as many as 400,000 service members live with invisible wounds of war, including combat stress, depression, and finally -- the signature wounds of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom -- post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.
Wounded Warrior Project's mission is to honor and empower these wounded warriors. Not only do they assist injured servicemen and women through programs and services, they bring these military veterans and their families together to support each other.
“For us, these types of family events that are hosted by WWP are different than any other Halloween activities around Jacksonville. We really enjoy having this time to spend together as a family – and with the WWP staff who are so fun and friendly,” said Angie Ross, a Wounded Warrior Project family support member and the wife of Marine Corps wounded warrior Tim Ross.
“It means a lot to me because they have been reaching out to veterans for years," said Army Veteran Landell Vernon, a registered member with Wounded Warrior Project. "I just got connected with WWP and it’s good to know there are events like this around for wounded warriors like me. Being able to be around crowds again and feel welcome. This was my first event with kids – I feel at ease and so welcome. We are happy and glad to be out here.”
Today's Halloween event was the first one put together by Wounded Warrior Project, and the organization says it looks forward to doing it again next Halloween. To get involved with the national charity, go to woundedwarriorproject.org.