LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- There has been a big change in Kentucky’s Wounded Warriors Project. The organization recently lost funding because of a political position taken by the National Wounded Warriors, but today, the program is back on track with wounded police officers, EMS and firefighters joining the military in a new organization named Kentucky's Wounded Hero Project.
They are true American heroes who have survived unthinkable circumstances and now they need some help. "We want to take care of our own in Kentucky,” says veteran Kentucky State Police Sgt. Chad Carroll.
"Our own" includes both retired military like Brett Hightower who was hit by an IED in Afghanistan. "I was severely injured by some shrapnel from a grenade that went off and went through my jaw," he recalled. It also includes retired police officers like Ed Lingenfelter who was shot at point-blank range in Lexington on a routine traffic stop in 1995. "Somebody who was not associated with my traffic stop in any way who wanted to kill a police officer that night shot me three times," explained Lingenfelter.
Lingenfelter hasn't yet been on the trips that send servicemen injured in the line of duty far away from their everyday frustrations, but Hightower has, and it wasn't the beautiful scenery, the bears, the bald eagles or even the incredible fishing that he brought home to Kentucky. "It wasn't about fishing, it was about reconnecting with other wounded soldiers -- guys who'd gone thorough similar situations who'd experienced the same things I had," he said.
Formerly Kentucky's Wounded Warriors, this organization wanted to open up the same opportunities for wounded police, fire and EMS, but it had just lost funding for these trips because of a political stance on gun control by the National Wounded Warriors. That's when a local company stepped in. Jeff Ratanapool is the president of Century Mortgage and it's family of companies. They stepped in with a donation to make sure an already scheduled trip got off the ground without a hitch. "Community is everyone, it's not just the people at the top, so we have to support and help each other and we have to lift each other up," said Ratanapool while explaining why they decided to donate $9000 to the cause.
It requires some heavy lifting. There are over 50 thousand men and women living in the US who were wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Chad Carroll says they are forever linked and they need each other. “I didn't get it. I didn't get it until I was asked in 2010 to assist Chuck Reed in taking some wounded soldiers to Alaska," explained Carroll. "I saw problems that were solved as they sat and talked amongst each other about the situation they were involved in Iraq and Afghanistan. That's when I began to understand and to get it," said the Kentucky sergeant who has spent 22 years in the National Guard.
Kentucky's Wounded Hero Project is still building and it's growing every day, but funding is a continuing challenge. Still, men like Hightower and Lingenfelter know their biggest challenges are behind them.
"You really think about your family. You're thinking about your wife, your children and those you love most dearly, and whether you're going to survive or not" explained Hightower when thinking back to the time spent in the hospital overseas. "It makes a huge amount of difference to know that we can do this for those who are guys who are disabled," said Lingenfelter.
These wounded heroes may have been knocked down, but they weren’t knocked out. In fact, they are flying high again in our nations most northern state.
Kentucky's wounded heroes are alive and well.
If you'd like to donated, or if you'd like more information on the Wounded Hero Project, click here.