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Short-lived coordinator joins Wounded Warriors

Jeff Sinchak - Courtesy photo
Jeff Sinchak
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Island County’s new emergency services coordinator lasted less than a month on the job.

But nobody is upset with Jeff Sinchak for resigning after such a short stay. Sinchak, an Oak Harbor resident, has taken a high-profile job as a spokesman for the Wounded Warrior Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping injured servicemen and women of the current generation.

“I am disappointed to see Jeff go,” county Public Works Director Bill Oakes wrote to the county commissioners. “I think we had great potential to do good things for Emergency Services in Island County, but I cannot stand in the way of helping those who have sacrificed so much.”

Talkative, energetic and fiercely loyal to members of the military, Sinchak seems like the perfect guy for the job. As required for the spokesman position, he’s a “wounded warrior” and a current alumni of the Wounded Warrior Project. He had a 24-year career in the Navy including years as a corpsman attached to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 11, which used to be at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station. He also treated the injured and dying in Iraq.

“I still have that caregiver mentality,” he said. “To me there’s no better public service than to help those in uniform.”

After injuries prevented Sinchak from continuing to work with his unit, he turned to emergency management as a way to continue to help people in crisis; he even earned a master’s degree in the subject while he was still in the Navy. After retiring, he went to work with FEMA for four years, but then decided to find a job that keeps him closer to home where he can “annoy his kids.”

The emergency services position with Island County seemed like the ideal fit, but then he got the offer from the Wounded Warrior Project. The organization is starting a new speaker’s bureau with a dozen speakers nationwide who will educate the public, as well as recruit and help wounded warriors. He was torn about leaving the new job, but ultimately felt he had no choice.

Sinchak said he’s still coming to grips with the guilt he feels about surviving war when so many fell. He hopes that working for the Wounded Warrior Project will help him find peace while he helps others.

“Maybe that’s why I’m here,” he said. “Because these guys still need to be taken care of.”

Sinchak was especially impressed with the group’s vision statement: To foster the most successful, well-adjusted generation of wounded warriors in this nation’s history.

It’s a vision that Sinchak wants to share. He pointed out that many organizations help veterans, but one of the unique things about the Wounded Warrior Project is that it’s dedicated to members of the military who’ve been wounded since Sept. 11, 2001. The current generation of injured troops have challenges uniques to their wars — from the nature of injuries incurred from IEDs and RPGs to the difficulty of navigating government bureaucracy to finding work in a depressed job market. The Wounded Warrior Project is facing those challenges head-on.

“You can never make them whole, but you can help them reestablish a starting point and help them move forward from there,” Sinchak said.

The Wounded Warrior Projectsoffers a comprehensive set of programs aimed at assisting injured veterans, both retired and active duty, with physical and mental health issues and employment. The group advocates and lobbies for service members, while trying to increase communication between wounded warriors themselves. The group also has programs to help service members’ families.

“We can achieve and accomplish so much more than the government can ever do,” Sinchak said, explaining that the government has so many rules and regulations that restrict what can be done. “We’re not controlled by the box.”

Sinchak is currently undergoing three weeks of intense training to become a spokesperson. During his years in the military he was known as “Dr. 60 Grit” because of his toughness, but in recent years he’s been learning to talk about his experiences and traumas. He’s still a little hesitant to talk about his injuries, but he said the training and becoming a spokesperson will help him “learn to share his story in a healthy way.”

To find out more information about the Wounded Warrior Project, go to woundedwarriorproject.org.

Sinchak said he’ll soon be available to speak to Whidbey and other organizations about the nonprofit group and upcoming projects. Anyone interested should call the Wounded Warrior Project headquarters office at 877-832-6997 and ask to be transferred to the Speakers Bureau event coordinators.

Community Events, April 2014

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