SAN ANTONIO - This week the Wounded Warrior Project reaches a major milestone: 100,000 veterans nationwide have been helped through its programs.
The first soldier registered with the project said he’s found a new purpose in life.
Brian Neuman, the first registered wounded warrior, lives to serve everything from his family to his country to fellow veterans.
The passion for service started with his father.
“Growing up my father was in the Navy during Vietnam and he never used to talk about it too much,” Neuman said. “But it was kind of around us.”
At 18-years-old, Neuman joined the army. Within 13 years, Neuman had three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan under his belt.
But his military career abruptly cut short when he was injured in Iraq after a rocket hit his vehicle on Veteran's Day 2004.
“It’s just dust and light and heat,” Neuman said. “What was going through my head at that point was, ‘what am I going to be looking at when this dust clears?’ I thought my arm was broken. I thought it was still there.”
His left arm was blown off during the blast.
“I was more concerned with making sure my guys were okay,” he said. “Then when I realized I was the worst hurt, that's when it started to get scary. “
Neuman’s heart stopped briefly but he survived. Eventually, he found himself at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Maryland.
Wounded Warrior Project was just getting started when a representative handed Neuman a backpack filled with clothes and necessities.
“When I saw the logo for Wounded Warrior Project I didn't know anything about them but I immediately connected to it,” Neuman said. “I knew that I could put this clothing on and just walk around and people would know that I was a wounded warrior.”
But Neuman said the program gave him so much more.
“I might never have had the opportunity to meet people who were injured a year before me and hear their story and interact with them,” he said. “That's probably one of the biggest things about the transition in healing is being able to engage people that have been through it.”
Neuman went on to get married and started a family. During this time he found a new purpose in life, working with Wounded Warrior Project, using his positive outlook to help other wounded veterans.
“Having a job where you can feel like you made a difference in someone's life is success to me.”