Military and Veterans Program Spotlight: James Howard

Posted by Reeve Staff in Life After Paralysis on December 10, 2020 # Military / Veterans

James Howard

James Howard knows how to keep busy. Not only does James operate REACHCycles to help children with disabilities find mobility and independence through bicycles, and Veterans and Athletes United helping injured veterans find meaning in their life through sport, and get out on his own bike for an hour or two every day, he is also the Reeve Foundation’s Military and Veterans Program Coordinator.

The Reeve Foundation Military and Veterans Program (MVP) is designed to support the unique needs of all military service members – regardless of when they served or how the injury was obtained. The MVP extends expertise in spinal cord injury and paralysis to include resources and community connections for service men and women, as well as veterans living with paralysis, whether through combat-related, service-related, or non-service-related events.

Despite the challenges created by the global COVID-19 pandemic and the impact it has had on veterans living with paralysis and their families, James has not been deterred. Quoting from Sun Tzu on Veterans Day, James said, “in every chaos, there is also opportunity.”

In that regard, using Paralysis Resource Center printed materials, James has put together large resource bags with information on MVP services to deliver to local VA hospitals and helped develop virtual events so that veterans can stay connected and active from the safety of their own homes.

Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, James had started to open his home for group retreats that combined time to socialize and get active with an educational and support component. But since the pandemic started, he’s scaled back the number of guests to single families or couples so veterans and their loved ones can still have a chance to get outside and enjoy a day of fishing or other adaptive recreational activity.

“In general, helping others is helping yourself to find purpose in life,” James said.

And when helping others, personal connections can make a world of difference. Injured in 2008 while serving in the storied 82nd Airborne Division as a third-generation paratrooper, James said that it was important for him to meet other injured veterans and “to see that someone with my same injury was moving on, going to college, or learning to drive.”

James said that running his nonprofits and working for the MVP “has helped me tremendously to move on from my disability and start helping others.”James and family

As for the future, James has recently welcomed his first child, named after his old friend from the Virginia Military Institute, Luke Wullenwaber, who was killed in action. He is looking forward to continuing to connect veterans to caregivers and provide mentorship to those newly injured.

“Whether it’s building a bike or just reaching out to chat with another veteran,” James said, “to provide these kinds of experiences is unreal.”

To learn more about the Reeve Foundation’s MVP program, please go to www.ChristopherReeve.org/MVP or call 866-962-8387.