Glen Silva said his role will be “facilitator.”
Another description might be reality check.
Marine Staff Sgt. Glen Silva will attend May’s Forgotten Coast Wounded Warrior Weekend in Port St. Joe as something of a mentor, a man with a passionate understanding and empathy for the wounded service men and women who will spend several days basking and fishing in a place not a medical ward.
Silva, who attended the Wounded Warrior Weekend in 2011 as one of the warriors of focus, comes this year to lend a hand, and an ear, to organizers and soldiers alike.
He will assist warriors during the weekend, to provide maybe a dash of cold water to those, Silva acknowledges, that might be suffering through the “woe is me, no one understands” stage of serious injury.
“The key for me is getting into their faces and treating them as service men and women,” Silva said. “You are still a member of the military and you are bringing them back to the brotherhood.
“Research shows that units that maintain contact with each other heal better. Units with good family support systems heal better.”
And Silva bears scars from the battlefield that lend him hard-earned bona fides with his fellow soldier.
Silva was wounded Oct. 12, 2010 – as with so many wounded veterans, the start date to his second life is seared in his mind.
To say Silva suffered wounds is to characterize a St. Bernard a mere dog.
He lost a leg, shattered ear drums, lost fingernails, broke ribs, suffered a catastrophic brain injury, collapsed lungs, severe wounds to his stomach and genitalia and had, in effect, his abdomen splayed open.
In an earlier time, during an earlier war, he would have died.
“Now you have their attention,” Silva said of the dialogue after he explains to others his injuries. “They can start becoming productive members of the society.
“I am going to ask them how are they moving forward? I will challenge them. What are they doing to make it better than they found it? That is good for society as a whole. It is such a simple concept. It’s not about what you donate or anything like that. It is what are you doing in your daily life to make society better?”
Silva brings a far deeper well of understanding than most regarding the impact of catastrophic wounds, what must be overcome to move ahead, to regain footing and a sense of self and purpose.
“Everybody is different,” Silva said by phone from Quantico, VA, where he is an instructor in combat leadership among other courses. “It’s a wake-up call and everybody wants there to be cookie-cutter answers, cookie-cutter solutions, but there are not.
“My faith and my intestinal fortitude were important, but so were my life experiences and my age (42 today). I just kept thinking let get going through this and get out.”
The swirling emotions accompanying such serious wounds, Silva said, are often compounded by the reception from home.
The “thank you for your service” the characterization of a “hero” was at times, well, overwhelming.
“That was initially very hard for me,” Silva said. “To have people thank you for your service, I understand that is more for them and that is okay. Because of my ability and skills, that is why I was over there.
“You don’t think of thanking the guy who pumps your gas for his service. These were just my skills, my abilities.”
And as he traversed the vast network of organizations, non-profit and otherwise, across the country dedicated to assisting returning veterans, returning warriors, Silva arrived at cognizance and something approaching a peace about the effort and the goals.
“I think it is so important to have the best interests of the servicemen at heart,” Silva said. “I am always excited to come down to Port St. Joe and see the people I have made friendships with because over the years this event has developed into something more important to the service people than the community.
“They get it there. They have listened and understand that they need to do what is right and what is best for the service people.”
His role, he said, would be to provide some of the same sense of leadership he brought to the battlefield and lend it to service men and women seeking guidance in the next tentative steps in life, a life dramatically altered.
“A good leader understands the people he is in charge of and adapts his leadership to those people,” Silva said. “You have to still be a mentor, a good leader. You have to be fluid and you have to adapt.
“I am still the same leader; I just have a different perspective.”
In spite of his injuries, despite his ordeal of survival to walk out of a hospital within three months of wounding, despite the impacts, long and short term, on his life, Silva regrets little.
He went off to war due to his belief system and skills. Neither have been shaken by his experiences since an October day in 2010.
“In today’s day and age the only guarantee in war is men and women are going to get injured,” Silva said. “I would be the first to go back. I don’t want to have my daughter experience anything that I have and if I can do that for my daughter, I would.
“War is always going to come and go, it doesn’t change the basic essence of who we are. You can’t let the politics and emotions get involved. You just have to do something each day to make things better.
“Why wouldn’t we continue to try to strengthen ourselves?”
The fourth Forgotten Coast Wounded Warriors Weekend will be held May 14-18.
At this year’s event, 20 warriors, 20 caretakers and three mentor warriors will be honored over a five-day period.
The organizing committee is seeking volunteers to make monetary donations or provide transportation, merchandise for raffle, servers for meals and boat captains for the tournament.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions and donations.
Donations are tax deductible.