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Our Forgotten Warriors is a symbol of hope, founded with the premise that all soldiers and veterans should receive the best available resources to help them reintegrate with society after their separation from the armed services. We work to address a very specific need in the military community - the gap in services between the time a soldier discharges and the time he or she begins receiving financial assistance and support services. This gap only ranges from 3 weeks to 4 months, but it is ample to send veterans into financial ruin or result in catastrophic setbacks to their rehabilitation.
Carol and Brandon Gauvreau know this scenario all too well. For their family, everything changed on July 19, 2007, when Carol’s son, Airman First Class Brandon Gauvreau, suffered a life-altering aneurysm at McChord Air Force Base in Lakewood, Washington . He fell into a coma that lasted almost eight weeks.
Although he received VA entitlements for his health condition, Gauvreau would undergo a very slow and costly recovery process, due to the lack of competent facilities that could provide efficient services to afflicted war veterans on a timely basis. He entered one treatment facility after another, each time discharged without the benefit of effective therapies that should have led to full rehabilitation. Despite these circumstances, the youthful and resilient veteran did not lose hope, morale, or his sense of purpose.
In the eyes of many, the bright future for the 19-year-old US Air Force serviceman had ended with the hemorrhagic stroke that resulted in arm, leg, and visual paralysis. Yet Gauvreau bravely faced another series of battles to champion, what to others seemed like, a lost cause.
Brandon decided to turn his misfortune into something positive. In 2008 he founded Our Forgotten Warriors as a way to assist other veterans on the road to recovery. He wanted similarly affected comrades-in-arms to draw lessons from his experience without enduring the same hardships.
However, before OFW could take root, Brandon entered a fourth in-patient rehabilitation facility that also could not satisfy his needs. After a six-month stay, he was again discharged without prospects for a proper healthcare plan.
Carol took her son to several facilities outside of Washington state, at her own expense, just to seek the kind of treatment that he deserved, which was not provided for by the government. Once again they were disappointed. Amid the demoralizing situation, Brandon continued the fight to regain his dignity. He refused to be eaten away by depression. Instead, he kept his spirits high by envisioning a facility capable of making afflicted veterans like him enjoy life at its finest, physical and economic conditions notwithstanding. Brandon expanded his mission. He produced and distributed flyers to share his his vision with other patients. But only minutes into circulating the announcement, he was forbidden by the staff to continue because his expectations, according to them, were “unrealistic”. The staff telephoned Brandon’s mother to say that her son was giving false hopes to the residents. Carol simply replied, “Send him home.”
It was probably the best thing that any facility could do to Brandon. Because home would become his springboard to achieving his mission of leading others out of the same ordeal. Today, almost half a decade since that fateful day of his hemorrhagic stroke, Brandon rallies to meet veterans’ needs.
Years after being sent home because the treatment facility found his vision and expectations unrealistic, Brandon and his brainchild, Our Forgotten Warriors, march forward, in a quest to help to empower injured and interned heroes and heroines.
Initially, OFW’s focus was identifying integrated quality programs and services for individuals with physical and cognitive impairment due to Acquired Brain Injury (ABI), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and Post-Traumatic Stress Injury (PTSI). In the past three years, perhaps correlated with the poor economy, we have witnessed an increase in veterans floundering in the period between discharge and commencement of VA or SSI benefits. To address this need we began offering financial assistance and financial planning services in 2010.
The message that OFW wishes to convey is that those who suffer from ABI, TBI, and PTSI cannot be ignored for their great potential. As they have served in their uniforms with unconditional gallantry, so can they contribute as civilians. And where others have made veterans wear the can’t-do attitude, OFW will strongly cry out: Wrong. The veterans can - and will!