Everyone sees the need to help Wounded Warriors. But not many people have the guts, desire, and passion to start their own 501(C)3 organization dedicated to helping those who have been severely injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Well, one man did. Meet Joe Porrazzo, founder of Warrior Passion (www.warriorpassion.org) and retired USMC F-18 fighter pilot with over 22 years of active duty service. Porrazzo experienced a traumatic event during his own time in the Marine Corps and decided to act.
“In 2005 on a combat deployment to Iraq on the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson, my roommate Kelly “Trash” Hinz, and my Executive Officer John “Dukes” Spahr collided on a night combat mission over Baghdad. They did not survive.”
That tragic event was more than just a difficult time for Porrazzo and his fellow Marines. It was a sudden insight for the former fighter pilot into how special his group of fellow aviators were.
“Dealing with their tragic deaths brought my world (or at least what I thought was my own invincible world) to a grinding halt. It was a vulnerable time for all of us in the squadron, but we were back to flying combat missions two days after the mishap. We got back into the cockpit and picked up the mission by relying on each other, by supporting each other to get us through that tragic time. I learned from that event that we, Service Members, are truly our brother’s keeper.”
Being a true “brother’s keeper”. That was how his squadron survived and that is the key to Porrazzo’s non-profit organization, Warrior Passion (@warriorpassion1).
Warrior Passion is about helping Wounded Vets reintegrate back into society and to help them find a passion that makes this reintegration less difficult. It is a group comprised of Vets helping Vets, because who can better understand those struggling with the fight than those in the fight with them.
“One fact to me that remains constant with our Wounded Veterans is that they all need something they can be passionate about. A sport, hobby, activity, whatever it is, that they can focus on, challenge themselves with, and enjoy doing in their current physical and mental condition.”
Back in late 2015 after he retired, Porrazzo began to pitch his idea of creating Warrior Passion to fellow Veterans and Active duty friends. The response was always the same: “how do I get involved?” He knew it was time to act.
“I decided to start a charity that helps Wounded Vets find their passion.”
Porrazzo set out to create an organization where one Veteran can inspire other Veterans, and in turn also inspire themself. For his own inspiration, Porrazzo turned to the most obvious thing he could think of and share–flying.
“For me, it is flying. That’s what I love to share. With our 1978 Super Decathlon, I am having the time of my life taking up our Country’s Heroes and giving them what I call a few “aero thrills”.
“Aero thrills” consist of hour-long flights sightseeing up and down the San Diego coast. The views include Del Mar, the world famous Torrey Pines golf course, and a trek past downtown San Diego and over the Coronado Bridge. Then, if the Veteran is up for it, Porrazzo takes them for full on aerobatic maneuvers. Loops, aileron rolls, immelmans, and half Cuban eights are all a part of the “aero thrill” package. Vets love it.
“I recently flew a Marine Double Amputee named Josh Elliott. His reaction was priceless, and his exact words were “that was ridiculously sick…amazing!” That meant a lot to me, especially coming from a fellow adrenaline junkie like Josh Elliott.”
Of note, Elliot recently made the U.S. Paralympic Downhill Ski Team and will be competing in the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.
Based out of San Diego, Warrior Passion was founded by Porrazzo and fellow Marines Chris “Kitty” Collins, a former Blue Angel, and retired Marine artillery Officer John Stevens. Warrior Passion’s board of directors is comprised solely of Veterans and Active Duty Service Members only. No salaries are paid.
Porrazzo currently averages about two flights per week with wounded Veterans. The group also holds regular events throughout the southern California area including SCUBA diving lessons for handicapped veterans, sailing, surfing, hiking, golf, fishing and much more.
Upcoming Warrior Passion plans include a weekend beach event at the Del Mar Beach on Camp Pendleton 23-26 September. Six Purple Heart recipients who will enjoy water activities along with a cookout and bonfire. Additionally, an off-roading event in Big Bear California is planned for this October. Porrazzo hints there might even be a few surprises for the weekend other than just off roading.
However, one thing for that weekend will not be a surprise: the Warrior Passion commitment to help Wounded Veterans find their passion.
If you are a Veteran, potential volunteer, looking for more information or simply want to donate, please visit the Wounded Passion website at www.warriorpassion.org. Also, give the Warrior Passion Facebook page a “Like” or follow on Twitter @warriorpassion1. For direct inquiries, please email Mr. Porrazzo at [email protected]
All photos courtesy Warrior Passion