Creating Bonds that Cure-The Vera Family

Special Forces Master Sergeant (Ret.) George E. Vera, Land O’Lakes, Florida, was on his fifth combat deployment to Afghanistan when his base came under attack by insurgents using a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device. Under heavy enemy fire, George and his unit worked to secure the perimeter, but two insurgents slipped through. Sustaining multiple gunshot wounds, he suffered a shattered spine, a traumatic brain injury, and the loss of vital organs. After a long road back from his injuries, George now competes in wheelchair basketball, swimming, hand cycling, shot put, and discus at competitions designed for wounded, ill, and injured service personnel, including the Department of Defense Warrior Games and the international Invictus Games, but one problem continues to plague him. “My legs are always swollen,” he says. Despite following an active, healthy lifestyle and elevating his legs at night, the severe swelling makes his legs feel like they are asleep and “like fire ants are on you,” George says. His legs become so heavy that it’s difficult for him or his wife to lift him in and out of his vehicle or in and out of bed. While competing at the Invictus Games in the Netherlands the medical staff loaned him a pair of specialized compression boots. He couldn’t believe how quickly the boots relieved his swelling but George said, “They were pretty pricey.” A friend suggested he reach out to Operation Healing Forces Immediate Needs Program, which he did. “Within a week, I got the compression boots. It was fast—I was super surprised,” George says. “The boots got my legs down to where they are manageable for me to handle by myself. It helped out tremendously.”

Operation Healing Forces is a non-profit organization that serves the Special Operation Forces (SOF) Community. We recognize the decades of war-fighting and sacrifices SOF members made during the Global War on Terror and the toll it has taken on these service members and their families as well as the ongoing challenges and hardships they face as they continue to deploy all over the world. It is our mission to aid active-duty and recent-veteran wounded, ill, injured, and fallen SOF and their families by aiding in the process of mentally, physically, and emotionally healing these individuals so they may return to the fight or successfully transition into civilian life.

Operation Healing Forces serves a very elite and very worthy segment of our population. Our organization is dedicated to supporting the Special Operation Forces of the United States Department of Defense’s United States Special Operation Command (USSOCOM) located at MacDill, AFB. Typically referred to as “quiet professionals”, Special Operation Forces include Rangers, Green Berets, Night Stalkers, Delta Force, Navy SEALS, Air Force Special Tactics, and Marine Raiders. Unfortunately, SOF members claim the highest divorce, cancer, and suicide rates of all the military. OHF is dedicated to healing the visible and invisible wounds and hardships this community faces. OHF is committed to focusing on the SOF communities’ well- being by restoring families and providing the resources and tools necessary for SOF members to reclaim happy, productive, and fulfilling lives.

OHF aids SOF and SOF family members in healing their wounds by “Creating Bonds that Cure”. OHF reconnects families through our therapeutic couple retreats that strengthen and restore relationships that have experienced long periods of separation and multiple war-time deployments. We also provide respite and promote the importance of self-care through our Caregiver and Gold Star Family Retreats. Lastly, OHF provides necessary and life-changing resources to provide for the immediate physical, financial, and emotional need SOF members and SOF family members may require.

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