When staff sergeant Ian Newland’s convoy was ambushed in eastern Baghdad in 2006, his gunner jumped on a live grenade, saving the lives of Newland and three other soldiers. The gunner posthumously received the Medal of Honor for his actions, and although Newland’s life was spared that day he spent five years rehabilitating from his wounds. At home his personal battles continued—substance abuse and severe PTSD. After one trigger too many, he decided to call the veteran hotline at Operation Ward 57.
Named for the amputee ward of Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC, where in 2007 founders sergeant Scott Cameron and wife Deborah Semer experienced firsthand the crisis facing our nation’s wounded warriors, Operation Ward 57 serves around 70 veterans and their families in the Puget Sound region each year. That’s a significant number, considering the nonprofit is funded entirely by donations and has one paid employee in executive director Brittney Hamilton (whose home also operates as headquarters).
“Just because someone has left the hospital doesn’t mean they are healed,” says Hamilton. “We’re here to meet lifelong needs.” The program provides emergency grants, care packages, patient visits, yearly events, and crisis lines like the one Newland called.
Now a father and husband, Newland has since kicked pain pills and alcohol, and is now an avid public speaker and supporter of veterans’ programs all across the United States.
“When a warrior is hurt inside, he doesn’t always show it and usually doesn’t ask for help,” says Newland. “[Operation Ward 57 is] saving lives behind the scenes.”