Wounded warriors finding new purpose and achievement through athletics
Special Operations Bionic Warriors is a nonprofit that strives to enhance the quality of life through sport and athletics, for U.S. Special Operations veterans whose lives have been affected by wounds, injuries or illness.
MissionBox co-founder and CEO Kathryn Engelhardt-Cronk talks with Ben Duran, newly-elected president of Special Operations Bionic Warriors, about the unique services that SOBW provides wounded veterans who served in special operations.
How did you first learn about Special Operations Bionic Warriors?
I was introduced to Special Operations Bionic Warriors via the United States Special Operations care coalition to do adaptive sporting events. Joining this team was probably the best thing that I ever did, because it brought me back to my brothers and sisters, and I felt like I never left the military.
Special Operations Bionic Warriors occupies a distinctive niche in the world of veteran-focused nonprofits by serving special operations veterans that are also athletes. What drew you to the mission of SOBW specifically?
Even before my military service, I was an athlete and highly motivated to excel. Moving into the military, I knew I wanted to be part of a higher, better organization. I enlisted as a conventional soldier and transitioned into the unconventional forces -- Special Operations. I was in the military for 16 years, serving in both Afghanistan and Iraq. I was a career soldier until I got injured and was medically retired.
I was invited to participate in the Warrior Games, which is for all the injured service members throughout the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and of course, Special Operations. I participated in wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball. It was a great experience.
Bionic Warriors are not only about conventional sports, but also team challenges and adventure challenges. When you’re orienteering 20 miles a day, you’re in a raft for another 20, and then on a bike for 20, and you are doing it as part of a team event, you find yourself building that camaraderie that was there in the military.
How many veterans does Special Operations Bionic Warriors currently serve?
Special Operations Bionic Warriors, Inc. serves 220 athletes and it's growing. These men and women gave everything, they got injured. And I know from experience, all they want to do is participate, get back with the team and rediscover that military camaraderie.
You say your organization is growing. What are your current areas of need?
We always knew that we would find funds to support our veterans, but there is so much more that can be done by increasing donations and building our services. We have men and woman who served in the Special Forces from all the military branches. These special operations veterans need help getting either hiking gear, camping gear or mountain bikes.
We will succeed by setting and succeeding with short-term goals, long-term goals, mission focus, communication and motivation.
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E. Ben Duran, President, Special Operations Bionic Warriors Inc. Retired from the United States Army's 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne). Served five tours to Afghanistan, one to Iraq in support of the Global War on Terror. Currently attending the University of Notre Dame in pursuit of a Master's in Business Administration.