MANHATTAN, Kan. (KSNT) – A local veteran is aiming to help heal the hearts and minds of other veterans.
In 2008, Thomas Tavtigian was hurt in an IED explosion in Iraq. A year later, he had a major surgery that put him in a coma and on life support, leading to almost 20 more surgeries and a long recovery.
“I was injured. And I was hurt. And I suffered from PTSD,” Tavtigian said.
At the time, he was in the Warrior Transition Battalion at Fort Riley, surrounded by other soldiers.
“I would see them suffer and so I was like, you know, there’s gotta be something out there,” he said. “So I started reaching out to different groups and I would see a lot of cliques in these groups and I was like, that’s not good. So eventually I decided I’m going to do this.”
And in 2012, he did just that. Two years later, he turned Wounded Warriors United into a nonprofit. It provides veterans with group trips to hunt, fish, camp and socialize. But most importantly, it’s a chance to heal from their past.
“I was one of those guys that was going to eat a bullet. So in a way, this is therapeutic for me, this helps me,” Tavtigian said. “When I help a veteran, it’s helping me. It’s giving me something to look forward to.”
Wounded Warriors United is based in Manhattan, but has since opened up a couple chapters in other state to help more people.
“We’re all over the midwest and I think we’re making an impact,” Tavtigian said.
However, the coronavirus pandemic is making an impact on the organization. Right now, they’re putting a hold on group outings and focusing more on home improvement.
It’s just Tom that looks forward to meeting with other veterans. After serving 11 years, six worldwide deployments and two combats, Stephen Capizzi is in the process of transitioning out of the Army.
He’s been a volunteer and contributor to Wounded Warriors United for about three years now, going on group hunting trips.
Capizzi said he’s getting ready to go through that transition of not having the normal brotherhood everyday.
“It just feels like you’re alive again, I guess,” he said. “You’re around that brotherhood again and everyone can relate to one another.”
Wounded Warriors United is helping veterans adjust to their new normal.
“You know, if you see a veteran…it won’t hurt to, you know, a little conversation goes a long way. You never know what someone’s going through,” Capizzi said.
If you’re interested in donating to or being a part of Wounded Warriors United, click here for more information.