The Edmond Sun

December 8, 2012

SF students to support veterans

Mark Schlachtenhaufen
The Edmond Sun

EDMOND — Santa Fe students heard about honor, pride and sacrifice as the high school announced its 2013 Double Wolf Dare Week recipients — Warriors for Freedom and the Folds of Honor Foundation.

In 1987, Blake Cotter joined the U.S. Army. He was the first veteran to come home from the Gulf War (1990-91), which was code named Operation Desert Storm. He came home on emergency leave and was the first Gulf War veteran to be diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder.

PTSD is a potentially debilitating anxiety disorder triggered by exposure to a traumatic experience such as combat, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Its cause is unknown. It changes the body’s response to stress and symptoms include “reliving” the event, repeated nightmares of the event, feeling detached or hopeless, difficulty concentrating and feeling irritable or having outbursts of anger.

“It was something I didn’t want anybody to know,” Cotter said as he told students assembled in the school gym about his experience with PTSD. “I would go through many years of trying to keep it a secret.”

The news media sensationalized the disorder and people demonized it, Cotter said. But it’s something that 99 percent of combat soldiers come home with and face, he said.

After several events in which his life was almost taken, members of the veteran community in Oklahoma, including Maj. Ed Pulido (retired), pledged to support him as he sought to live with PTSD.

“Warriors for Freedom and Maj. Pulido grabbed me and really turned my life around,” Cotter said. “Not only did they turn my life around they turned my five daughters’ lives around by giving them each a scholarship.”

Today, Cotter is president and owner of Warrior Coating Solutions, an Oklahoma City company that only employs veterans. Ten percent of its profits go to the Warriors for Freedom Foundation, an ally of the Folds of Honor Foundation. Cotter’s company installs roofing and energy saving coatings.

Cotter said it will take people like the Santa Fe students — the 99 percent — to stand behind the 1 percent, the soldiers who make all that is going on in the school possible.

In Iraq in 2004, the military vehicle Pulido was driving hit an improvised explosive device that exploded under him. He suffered a broken leg, arm, knee and pelvis; he had pieces of shrapnel lodged in his abdomen and arm and still carries at least one piece that surgeons could not remove.

Today, Pulido, of Edmond, is a father and husband who after receiving support from organizations including the Folds of Honor Foundation, works tirelessly to support veterans. He founded Warriors for Freedom, a leadership institute focused on the mental, physical and holistic recovery of wounded warriors and their families. It partners with Folds of Honor.

The Folds of Honor Foundation is rallying the nation to ensure that no family is left behind in the fight to preserve American freedom. Through scholarships and other assistance the organization gives back to the spouses and children of soldiers killed or disabled in service to their country.

More than 700,000 soldiers have been killed or disabled in Iraq and Afghanistan. As of Jan. 1, 2012, more than one million dependents had been adversely affected by multiple deployments, and more than 87 percent of those dependents do not qualify for federal scholarship assistance.

Pulido said the Santa Fe students will be making a difference in the lives of those who sacrifice so much in the defense of freedom. The beneficiaries help any veteran be the best they can be, Pulido said.

Double Wolf Dare Week (Feb. 25-March 1) chairman Storm Rund urged members of the community to help Santa Fe students support the beneficiaries. Last year, the school raised $283,421 for the Peggy and Charles Stephenson Cancer Center.

For more information about Double Wolf Dare Week, including a schedule of events, visit www.dwdw.org.

Each year Edmond’s three high schools donate a portion of their total fundraising to a nonprofit organization. This year’s common thread is A New Leash on Life, which provides service dogs to those with disabilities. The organization will receive 5 percent of the total amount raised.



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