Physical injuries, drinking, weight gain and PTSD were just a few of John Rego’s struggles after his military service. It took years before he found Wounded Warrior Project, which helped him unlock strength and healing through physical wellness.
JOHN REGO: Being an Army Ranger is a very fast-paced lifestyle. I remember the building coming down on me and thinking to myself, well, this is it. It wasn't until I found Wounded Warrior Project that I truly started the healing process.
I joined the Army Rangers because they were the best, and I wanted to work with the best. I was clearing a weapons cache in Haditha, Iraq, when the building collapsed on me, burying me alive. The members of my unit pulled me out, brought me back to life two times until they were able to take me to a medical facility nearby. I spent six months in the hospital and then a year of recovery.
When I was separated from the military, it was the first time that I was face-to-face with my thoughts. And for me, the easiest way to deal with that was to turn to alcohol. I gained a substantial amount of weight. I figured that I had this broken body that couldn't work. I just felt like I was useless because I only had this one thing that I was supposed to do, and then that one thing was taken away from me.
And then one day, I got a call out of the blue from Wounded Warrior Project. And they asked me to come to a workout. I showed up, and there were people there who had been hurt way worse than I had.
And I thought to myself, man, you have been making excuses for yourself for so long. So it was really inspiring for me. And I decided that I was going to get better, both physically and mentally. And that started my journey.
I worked up to a 5K. And a 5K turned into a 10K, then a half-marathon, then a marathon. Wounded Warrior Project did a phenomenal job of reminding me that my injuries weren't limiting me, but my mindset was. And it really helped me with the healing process of post-traumatic stress.
Where I live, it inspires my day-to-day life and everything that I do. I have three young kids that are definitely outdoors children. They go clamming, spend time on the water, look at bald eagles, wild ponies on the island, and just enjoying every bit of it.
Today, with Wounded Warrior Project, I'm a warrior leader, where I create events and opportunities for other veterans locally. We've done everything from kayaking and paddleboarding to fishing adventures. And those bonds have turned into lifelong friendships that I really cherish.
Doesn't get much better than that.
JOHN REGO: Thank you. That was fun.
The most important thing is being with each other. That camaraderie is really what truly makes an impact and helps us with our healing. The support that I had from Wounded Warrior Project made me realize that my injuries aren't going to define who I am. Only I can define who I am and who I'm going to be. And because of that, I can do anything that I want.