BOISE, Id – Five injured military veterans begin a new phase of their life in Boise today. They’re all going to college, thanks to the Wyakin Warrior Foundation. Jeff Bacon is the Executive Director.
Jeff Bacon “Whatever they want to do, if they want to be a plumber, we want them to be a good plumber and if they want to be a U-S Congressman someday, we want to give them the tools to be able to do that.”
The veterans get a scholarship to pay for college, room and board, even books. They also have mentors, job training, tutors, whatever they need to succeed in a new career. The non-profit Idaho Foundation was created by veterans to help injured vets. It steps in where the military leaves off. Samantha Wright met with three of the new Wyakin Warriors. And just a note, some listeners may find the content difficult to hear.
Nick Edinger “How did you get here? Uh, I got blown up [laughter], that’s how I ended up here.”
Nick Edinger isn’t kidding when he says he was blown up. Here’s how it happened: He joined the Army three years ago. After training, he was stationed with the 82nd Airborne. He was sent to Afghanistan, outside of Kandahar City.
Nick 6 (00:06) “When we moved in and kind of took over, it made the bad guys kind of angry.”
Angry enough to plant bombs. On March 30, 2010, he went out on patrol.
Nick Edinger “I was actually pulling security while we investigated another bomb site which killed my squad leader Staff Sergeant Bronkhorst and while I was trying to get to him to give him aid, I stepped on a bomb which knocked me ten or fifteen to the side and took off the lower portion of my left leg.”
Before Edinger could take stock of his injuries, three men with AK-47’s came around a corner and started to drag him away.
Nick Edinger “Uh, I ended up killing one of them and then my friends, the rest of my squadmates came around the corner, killed another one, they dropped me and tried to run and they killed the last guy as he were running away. About a half hour I was in Kandahar on an operating table and they saved my ass there, my life, excuse me.”
He spent a year at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. That’s where he heard about the Wyakin Warrior Foundation. Now Edinger will study to be a nurse at Boise State University. He says he owes it to his buddies to do something with his life.
Nick Edinger “My friend Lieutenant Dan Knosen, he was a Seal, he lost both legs above his knees and he runs marathons. And he’s still active duty in the Navy and he’s still part of the Seals. So here’s him and then for me to not do anything with myself, I would feel really terrible about that.”
Now Colby Morgan’s story is much different from Edinger’s. Morgan grew up near Greenleaf, Idaho. He joined the military two years ago and in the south. He was at Fort Gordon, Georgia when he got his orders.
Colby Morgan “Wasn’t sure where we were going next, but I guess with the military you don’t really have a choice with vaccines or anything like that so, I got a set of eight different vaccines and started to lose my vision that night. I guess it took about five days to take about ninety percent of my vision.”
The Army put him into rehab and he came back to Idaho last Fall. He wasn’t sure about his future, until his wife found the Wyakin Warrior Program online. Now Morgan’s going to Boise State to study music or business.
Colby Morgan “It was just kind of a miracle that we saw there was a program that people actually advocate for us and make the process a lot easier to do.”
Josh Barnes agrees. He’s the third Wyakin Warrior.
Josh Barnes “My stories so lame, compared to those stories… I don’t know we had I got blown up and vaccines so your turn, what happened?…Can I make something up that sounds a lot better?…Sure if you want…so I was fighting like a hundred wolves…”
Here’s the real story . Barnes went into the Air Force in 2002. He worked on Special Operations helicopters in England. He also spent time in Iraq.
Josh Barnes “They have this think in the military called ALARA, which is A-L-A-R-A which is their policy for radar exposure which is As Low As Reasonably Achievable which means, you’re going to get exposed, like, a lot, and hopefully not too much.”
Barnes did get exposed. And he was one of those that got too much.
Josh Barnes “And so in 2005 I started losing some of my central vision in one eye, in 2006 it was more in the other eye.”
He still had some vision in his left eye when he got discharged. He planned to go to nursing school. His wife and his mother are both nurses. But his vision continued to fail.
Josh Barnes “I think that people generally disapprove of you coming at them with sharp objects when you can’t really tell what you’re doing…I’m gonna give you an IV…so then I went into Health Sciences and now I’m doing Public Health.”
Barnes may joke, but he’s serious about the Wyakin Warrior program.
Josh Barnes “It’s an amazing opportunity, it’s awesome to be able to be associated with other people, like Nick and Colby and you know people you have a similar background with.”
According to Native American legend, a wyakin is a spiritual guide that advises and protects a person throughout life. The Wyakin Warrior Foundation aims to do just that, to give these veterans the tools they need to build new careers and new lives.
The new members of the Wyakin Warrior Foundation begin their program today at a special ceremony at the Governor’s House in Boise. The veterans will attend school this fall at Boise State and the College of Western Idaho.
Copyright 2011 BSPR