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Lisa Hopkins & Josh Sommers
Lisa Hopkins & Josh Sommers

“Wounded Warrior Project helps Josh understand that he’s not the only one who is injured and that there are people out there who haven’t given up on him.”

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Lisa Hopkins & Josh Sommers

In 2010, Lisa Hopkins got the phone call every military parent dreads. Her son, Josh Sommers, was severely wounded by a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) in Afghanistan. Lisa immediately left her home in Ohio and her manufacturing job to be by his bedside. “I had to drop everything, but I knew it was what I had to do,” says Lisa. “It was hard to see him. But I knew I had to be with him.”

Lisa stayed in Tampa the entire eight months Josh was in a coma. She visited with him at the hospital from 7 am until bedtime every day. When Josh was taken off his feeding tube, Lisa would wheel him to the zoo or the aquarium to try to stimulate his brain, despite his comatose state. She would point out the fish and whales, hoping for a response. “At the time, they told us that was as good as he was going to get,” says Lisa. “But I would have done anything to try and get him better.”

Josh finally woke up in March 2011. It was the start of a new life for the two — a life in which Lisa would be a full-time caregiver and Josh a full-time patient. Josh had to re-learn to brush his teeth, pull on a shirt, and feed himself. He remains partially blind, deaf, and paralyzed on the left side, but with his effort and Lisa’s around-the-clock care, he has already rewritten his diagnosis. “For a while there, it was looking like I was going to be incapacitated my whole life,” says Josh. “But what I’ve learned is that I can’t give up.”

The family found some semblance of normalcy when Lisa learned about Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP). Eager to meet people who could relate to Josh’s situation, they traveled to Chicago in August 2012 for the Air and Water Show. Josh said it was the first time he found veterans who understood his struggles and could share stories of recovery.

From that point forward, Josh stayed connected with WWP and found himself getting active in ways he never thought he could. He’s been water skiing, snow skiing, and has cheered for his beloved Cleveland Indians with other veterans. “It’s amazing — Wounded Warrior Project gives soldiers like me an opportunity to do things we would have never been able to do, disabled or not,” says Josh.

Then in 2014 — just a few short years after Lisa had been told her son may never come out of his coma — Josh walked an entire mile at an event in Cleveland, aided only by a walker and the cheers of the crowd. His new goal is to be fully mobile and to learn Braille so he can return to his love of reading. Most of all, he wants other veterans to know hope is out there.

“I look at is as a part of life,” says Josh. “What happened, happened. I don’t regret joining the military. Not for a second. I wanted to do my country a service. Now, I want to inspire people. Hopefully, people look at me and say, ‘If this guy can do it, I can do it.’”


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