Wounded Warrior Project fundraiser in Carmel hopes to raise $50k to help vets
By Chris Bavender
Two months after Army Sgt. Joey Johnson returned home from nearly a year-long tour of duty in Afghanistan he was paralyzed in an April 2012 motorcycle accident.
“I reached up to my sunglasses and got caught in the slipstream of a truck and overcorrected and smoked a mailbox at 50 mph – mailbox one, Joey zero,” the 26-year-old said. “I was paralyzed from about the middle of my chest down. I’ve made peace with it. I make paraplegic jokes – it’s a coping mechanism.”
Another coping mechanism for Johnson – who is a Purple Heart recipient and was also awarded the Bronze Star Medal with V device (for acts of heroism) – is talking to fellow veterans as a volunteer with the Wounded Warrior Project. Founded in 2002, the organization offers programs, services and events to wounded veterans.
“It helps us reintegrate back into the community because you become used to the military thing but then come home and might be missing a limb or suffering from (post-traumatic stress disorder) and it’s tough because you aren’t sure how to acclimate back into society,” Johnson said. “It can help with finding jobs or just getting you out of your house.”
To help continue its mission on a local level, American Legion Post 155 in Carmel will host a fundraiser at 1:30 p.m. June 21 (rain date is June 22). The event grew out of a backyard music fest chairman Dan Cisek hosted for 23 years.
“I stopped it because it got to be a lot of work at the house, but a lot of friends wanted a grand finale. So back in December someone suggested we have it at the post,” Cisek said. “So, one day I was watching TV and the Wounded Warrior Project commercial came on and I thought ‘By gosh, if we are going to have a grand finale musician’s party it should be for a cause.’”
The event will feature seven bands, including the Carmel School of Rock kids, food, beer, a raffle and other events. Cisek said the organization hopes to raise at least $50,000.
“We have been very lucky that all our vendors have donated all the food, etc. – even the raffle prizes are donated,” he said.
Rock Effron, former commander of Post 155 and a member of the Post’s executive board, said he hopes the event will not only raise a lot of money for the Wounded Warrior Project, but also raise awareness of the mission of the American Legion.
“This is what we are here for, this is what we do,” said Rock – an Army veteran who did two tours of duty in Vietnam. “We are not just a bunch of old people sitting around telling stories. We help children and homeless vets and do so many other things. This is what we do and who we are.”
Effron has mentored Johnson for several years.
“He’s a great young man, a hero and a mentor for young kids coming back home – even the older ones,” he said. “Since he went to Afghanistan he has done a lot to help out at the post just being here to talk to vets coming home. We listen – we don’t judge. And we try to give all the help and support we can. Talking to a psychiatrist doesn’t do it – talking to another vet who has been there will help.”
Johnson said he hopes people attending the fundraiser will walk away with a better understanding about organizations helping veterans.
“There are days when I am having a bad day or going through PTSD really bad or just really down in the dumps and hating life and I go up to the post and know I can open up to one of those guys and they will listen and tell me their story and 20 minutes later I feel better about myself,” he said.
Tickets for the Wounded Warrior Project fundraiser are $20 in advance and available at Post 155, as well as other posts, and are $25 the day of the event.
For more information call 846-0001.