Exactly one year after driving from Arlington, Virginia, to Jacksonville to take over Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) as its next CEO, Mike Linnington told a group of local business professionals last week that he’s optimistic about the future of the Jacksonville-based nonprofit organization.
“We’re on the right track,” said Linnington, referring to the organization’s recovery from news reports claiming it took part in lavish spending outside of its mission. “We have a long way to go in overcoming that stigma. Luckily, we have a really great organization with dedicated passion and commitment to our wounded service members in trying to make a difference.”
Linnington’s comments about the organization were addressed to members of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce Beaches Division and the Ponte Vedra Beach Division of the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce at a joint luncheon held Thursday, July 13 at Sawgrass Country Club. WWP offers a variety of programs and services for wounded veterans of military actions following Sept. 11, 2001.
The retired three-star general with 35 years of military service said WWP is about 60 or 70 percent back to where it was 18 months ago, prior to the news reports surfacing. As a result of the speculation that ensued about the organization, Linnington said WWP has made it a priority to be more transparent, noting that the organization’s financials are now included on its website.
“Hopefully that transparency and focus on the good work we do will start to bring back the rest of the support that’s starting to come back down,” he said.
When asked about the organization’s vision for the next five years, Linnington said WWP will likely invest additional resources in physical health and wellness services. He said the organization’s veterans who were young in the early 2000s are not so young anymore, and they’re struggling with immobility, isolation and overindulgence of medications, resulting in poor physical health.
He noted that 86 percent of the wounded veterans they provide services to are overweight or obese. Linnington said that so much emphasis as of late has been placed on mental health, implying that physical health has taken somewhat of a back seat.
The WWP CEO also provided attendees of the luncheon with a general overview of the organization’s reach. He said the nonprofit, which has physical presences in 25 United States cities, serves over 104,000 wounded service members and more than 20,000 family members of those service members. More than 2,400 of the organization’s warriors are located in the Greater Jacksonville area, he noted.
Linnington boiled down the organization’s work to three words: connecting, serving and empowering. He said the organization connects its warriors with each other. Then it serves them through a variety of free programs and services focused on physical and mental health and wellness and economic empowerment that are provided by WWP, other nonprofits or government agencies. Linnington said these programs then ultimately empower the warriors to once again become fully functioning members of their communities.
“The WWP logo shows one service member being carried off the battlefield by another service member,” he explained. “At the end of the day, we want all of our transitioning veterans to go from being that veteran carried off the battle field from visible or invisible wounds and ultimately be a warrior that’s leading peer groups and being active in their communities.”
Linnington added that WWP provides 100 percent of the resources required for 700 of the nation’s most previously wounded individuals to help them remain in their homes. He said the nonprofit pours a few million dollars a month into these in-home services, which include physical therapy, speech therapy and respite care, among others.
Linnington also encouraged business professionals at the luncheon to keep his warriors in mind as job opportunities surface at their respective companies.
“As you see opportunities for wounded service members to make a difference in your businesses or communities, please connect with us,” he said. “Just as they led in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard, they can equally lead in communities.”
For more information about WWP, visit https://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/.