Wounded Army veteran plans 'Walk for Warriors'
By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Coventry - posted Mon., Jul. 1, 2013
Coventry resident SFC Micah Welintukonis was on his third tour of duty when he was severely injured in Afghanistan in July of 2012. Welintukonis, an Army medic, was rushing to the aid of inured American soldiers when a suicide bomb exploded, causing severe injuries to his abdomen and left arm. Welintukonis was taken to an Army hospital in Kandahar, and then eventually to Walter Reed, where he spent more than a month as an inpatient, and many more weeks as an outpatient.
Welintukonis spent weeks in a coma, with his wife, Camilla (in the early stages of pregnancy with their son, Hunter), by his side. “In Vietnam, I probably would have been dead,” said Welintukonis, attributing his survival to advances in medical technology. “I should have died. But I’m still here.”
As he approaches the anniversary of his injury, Welintukonis plans a 60-mile walk, through which he aims to pay back organizations that have provided help to himand his family through the difficult months of his recovery. His Walk for Wounded Warriors and Vets, scheduled to begin on July 9, will raise money for the American Legion, the VFW and the Wounded Warrior Project. Welintukonis is a member of all three organizations. “It seems like a lot of these organizations are dying out,” he said. “It seems that less and less vets are actually joining them.”
Welintukonis sees the VFW and the American Legion playing vital roles in a number of different ways. They provide legislative and financial support to military personnel and their families, he said. Wounded Warrior “works to raise awareness and enlist the public's aid for the needs of severely injured service men and women, to help severely injured service members aid and assist each other, and to provide unique, direct programs and services to meet their needs,” according to a web page dedicated to the walk. “The VFW also maintains a nationwide organization of employees and volunteers to assist veterans with their VA disability claims,” said Welintukonis.
Welintukonis is currently working his way through the claims process himself, he said, and it can be a daunting task. He still faces an additional surgery on his arm, and is dealing with complications resulting from his abdominal injury. VA compensation and pension exam appointments are scheduled via e-mail. “I might have a doctor’s appointment scheduled at the same time,” said Welintukonis. “Then what do I do?”
With soldier suicide rates skyrocketing, organizations such as the VFW and the American Legion can provide a vital source of social support for military personnel. Welintukonis said he personally knows two soldiers who have committed suicide recently. “I don’t get it,” he said.
He speaks of starting out as a 185-pound, fit and healthy soldier. “And I can’t work out anymore,” said Welintukonis. “But you’ve still got to continue the fight. You can still serve in other ways.” One of the goals he hopes to accomplish through his walk is to bring local veterans together. “We all have that common thing,” he said. “We volunteered for service for our country.”
Though he hopes to get as many military personnel as possible involved in his event, “anybody can join me,” said Welintukonis. “I think it’s less than one percent of the U.S. population has actually served in the military,” he continued. “It’s hard for the average person to relate.” Coming out to an event such as the walk, talking with military personnel, can help the average person, “gain an understanding, and a sense of pride in what’s invested,” said Welintukonis.
Welintukonis’ walk will begin at the VFW in Willimantic on Tuesday, July 9, at 7:30 a.m. He will proceed through Coventry, Vernon, Manchester, East Hartford and Hartford, making stops at memorials and posts along the way. The walk is scheduled to conclude at the West Hartford American Legion on July 12, after covering a distance of 60 miles.
For more information, or to make a donation, go to https://www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/k652/walkforwoundedwarriorsvets. You can also contact Welintukonis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 860-682-0233.