Healing Tools for Warriors Restores a Sense of Purpose

Penny Pinkham was born into a military family at Fort Riley, Kansas. She understood early on the potential dangers of serving your country.

But almost nothing could have prepared her for what was to come. She has had four children suffer significant injuries in the line of duty. 

One son fell 800 feet during training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, suffering a spine fracture and head trauma. Another became 100 percent disabled following a bombing in Israel. 

Yet another son suffered a head injury from a grenade and blew out his knees in a ruck march. A daughter broke her hip during an airborne jump.

It Started With a 3-Day Weekend

“After seeing the boys struggle with post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, I felt I needed to help not only the warrior but the caregiver as well,” Penny said.

“This is where our Healing Tools for Warriors (HTFW) was born. My heart wants to reach out to the community, businesses and organizations to help with the healing process.”

Penny said the idea for Healing Tools started as a way to welcome warriors home and help them re-acclimate to society.

“Early on we had a three-day weekend for them involving fishing, scuba diving and other fun stuff on the water,” she said.

Retreat Brings Resources to Warriors 

“It was a celebration of the warriors and their homecoming. The next day was more relaxed as we pampered the caregivers while the guys went deep-sea fishing. 

“It felt good to do that, and they appreciated it, but I just felt like it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t ongoing. So, I started with our local guys, helping them with as many resources as we could. 

“Then we did a retreat twice a year in order to bring the resources to the warrior. Including service dogs and equine therapy, and speakers who talked about job opportunities and finances.”

At first, Healing Tools focused on veterans. Now it’s open to all who serve. Including the U.S. Marine Corps, Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, fire departments, police and emergency medical services.

From Veterans to First Responders

“It was mostly vets when we first started,” said Robin Ford, president of HTFW. “Mainly for vets who were either kicked out or had to get out for medical reasons.

“But then we pulled in first responders because they go through the same types of things except in a different theater.” 

The organization serves close to 500 people per year. Most are local, but some come from other states including North Carolina and Texas.

“We bring hope and opportunity, and let God heal the rest,” Penny said. 

Focusing on PTSD and TBI

Penny, a resident of DeFuniak Springs in the Florida Panhandle, explains the HTFW mission on her website:

“Our mission is to provide the Warriors with post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury and their Battle Buddies (caregivers) a safe place to gather with other PTSD/TBI Warriors.”

The mission also involves connecting those warriors with local businesses and community organizations dedicated to support and aid in the healing process of the warrior. All with an emphasis on enhancing their ability to perform daily activities and to improve their quality of life. 

As well as to educate the warrior on local programs, jobs and volunteer opportunities that enable warriors to regain their sense of purpose and move past their medical restrictions.

“Our ultimate goal is to connect every Warrior with the tools and resources to reintegrate into society and their life.”

Battle Buddies Are Crucial

Penny and Robin both expressed how important Battle Buddies are to the overall success of the program and to the warriors’ success. 

“Some are spouses, some are boyfriends and girlfriends, and some are moms and dads,” Robin said.

Sometimes the Battle Buddy has four legs.

“Some of the vets can’t be around too many people and that’s why a service dog is trained to stand between the vet and whoever is around. 

“Some dogs can even see tremors and night sweats coming on and will wake up the vet while he’s sleeping.

“Including the Battle Buddies has been instrumental in getting them to understand what their loved one is going through. They see it’s a community of problems and not just limited to their loved one.” 

Connecting With Volunteers and Grads

In a typical year, Healing Tools hosts a retreat that allows warriors to be introduced to other warriors in similar situations.

They receive an education on the programs in an area that may be beneficial to them. It also gives them the opportunity to connect with Healing Tools volunteers and program graduates.

“Normally about 75 to 100 people attend and we bring in their Battle Buddies,” Robin said. “The veterans, first responders and others come and we have guest speakers who discuss issues including finances. As well as suicide, which is all too common among veterans. 

“The local community steps up and donates and serves food. Each night we gather at the fire pit to talk and we have a church service on Sunday.”

Pandemic Canceled Events, But Help Continued

The pandemic shut down the annual retreat in 2020 – as well as a concert Penny was planning – but both events are back on tap for 2021. With two major events canceled last year, Penny and others filled the gaps with a variety of activities. They included:

  • Meeting with partner organizations and connecting with other organizations for potential involvement with the mission.
  • Distributing 60 cases of produce and other food to veterans and first responders every two weeks after Hurricane Sally hit.
  • Staying connected with the veterans and other warriors by checking in with them regularly to see how they are doing.
  • Helping provide stuffed animals and games to children of warriors and gift bags for Battle Buddies.
  • Blessing 10 families with Christmas meals and gifts after some had suffered major losses.
  • Helping the Battle Buddies of dogs by partnering with What’s Up Dog of Miramar Beach and Road Dogg Rescue of Destin for the distribution of dog food to families who were out of work.

Fundraiser Pulls in $16K 

Despite the pandemic, Healing Tools held its 5th annual fundraiser in March 2021 at the 4C BBQ in DeFuniak Springs, Florida.

“We had a large space with a stage and about 150 people attended,” said Robin. “We auctioned off about 15 to 20 items and used others in a raffle package.

“Among the speakers were Lieutenant Colonel James Wilson of the U.S. Air Force and Wade Wilmoth, VSO and VFW Commander. The first year we did this, we took in about $4,000 to $5,000 in profit. This time we took in over $16,000.”

4Patriots donated a number of items for the event. Including two Patriot Power Cells, one HaloXT Tactical Flashlight, an Emergency Radio, two Personal Water Filters and a 72-hour Survival Food Kit.   

“The folks at the first responder and warrior tables were especially excited about those items,” Robin said.

“It was very important for our warriors to see that the community and others had donated items for their benefit,” Penny said.

Pushing Through the Pain

With three adult children who have suffered serious injuries while serving their country, and after undergoing three surgeries herself over the past 12 months, Penny could easily turn bitter and angry.

Instead, she has continued to channel her grief and pain into helping U.S. military veterans get through their own serious problems and come out on the other end better and stronger. 

“It’s a God thing,” Penny said. “I leave it all in His hands. I believe God puts you through these tests and the end of that becomes your testimony. I’m so passionate about our warriors. I know they need me and I want to help them.”

Others can help them as well. Anyone wishing to make a donation to Healing Tools for Warriors can visit www.healingtoolsforwarriors.com and click on “Donate Now.” 

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