SOURCE: Believe in Heroes

September 12, 2013 05:00 ET

Cooking Is Part of Military Hero's Recipe for Recovery

MISSION, KS--(Marketwired - Sep 12, 2013) - (Family Features) The Purple Heart pinned to his chef's jacket is the only sign many will ever see of David Guzman's service as a soldier fighting in Iraq. His newly earned chef whites hide the many scars, visible and invisible, left by a roadside bomb explosion.

Guzman was serving in the U.S. Army as a convoy escort in Iraq when his vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb. The attack left him with multiple injuries, including a serious wound to his leg. He was transferred to Baghdad for treatment, but was returned back to his unit before his leg was fully healed. It was then he started experiencing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.

"That's when I started living the explosion every day, every few minutes," he said. "I couldn't really sleep. I'd wake up in a sweat."

A month later, Guzman was flown back home where he learned the wounded leg had developed gangrene from a piece of shrapnel left behind. After prolonged treatment, the doctors managed to save his leg. During his months of recuperation, Guzman had the unwavering support of his family as well as a special group of soldiers.

"A hero is a person with a lot of courage who triumphs over their struggles. David has done that -- he is my hero," said his wife, Maribel Guzman "All of our nation's service members are heroes, but they don't think of themselves that way. They say they were just doing their jobs."

During his recovery, Guzman came across the website for Wounded Warrior Project (WWP), www.woundedwarriorproject.org. He began participating in health and wellness events, sharing time with other wounded warriors and taking part in WWP Soldier Rides. Eventually, he also attended the WWP/Culinary Institute of America Culinary Bootcamp.

"I found out that cooking makes me happy," Guzman said. "Most people find healing in eating comfort foods, I find healing in making them."

Guzman loved cooking so much that he went on to earn an Associate of Applied Science Degree in Culinary Arts from South Texas College. He went on to earn his bachelor's degree. He regularly attends WWP alumni events and helps the group assist others warriors who are just starting their journey back to everyday life.

"Organizations like WWP have given me the tools and knowledge I need to help other wounded warriors," he said.

The goal of WWP is to make a positive, lasting impact on the lives of injured service members and their families by raising awareness and enlisting the public's aid for the needs of injured service members. They also help injured service members assist each other, while providing unique, direct programs to meet their needs.

"The Veterans Administration helped with medical attention and medications," Maribel Guzman said. "But the staff at Wounded Warrior Project helped with the personal side of things. They helped him reintegrate with other veterans who may be suffering with the same issues. They cared about his overall wellbeing. They were an extension of our family."

Wounded Warrior Project has 19 programs and services to nurture the mind and body, and encourage economic empowerment for injured service members from post-9/11 conflicts. Believe in Heroes is a fundraising campaign implemented by Acosta Sales & Marketing that raises awareness and funds for critical programs provided by WWP. Consumers can make direct donations, buy items from well-known brands that participate in the Believe in Heroes campaign, and save via coupons at grocery retailers throughout the country. More than 55 national brands and 110 retailers are participating in the 2013 campaign. Learn more at www.wwpbelieve.org.

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