SHARE Military Initiative Graduate Dedicates His Life to Helping Other Veterans
Shawn Lopez of Tampa, Florida, credits SHARE Military Initiative with changing his life.
Cpl. Shawn Lopez (USMC), 28, had already survived two improvised explosive devices (IEDs) while serving with the United States Marine Corps in Afghanistan in 2009-2010.
“It was the third one that TKO’d me,” he says.
The explosion rocked the armored vehicle he was in.
“Back, shoulder, internal injuries, legs, ankles, feet. It got me just about everywhere,” Shawn says.
The injury that would prove most long-lasting, though, was a grade-three concussion and a traumatic brain injury.
Shawn went through physical therapy and re-entry programs after returning home. Eventually, though, his post-traumatic stress issues came to the forefront in a big way.
“I went to a dark place,” Shawn says now. “I lost my job. My wife and I divorced. I was emotionally, spiritually, physically and financially drained. It was life-threatening.”
By New Year’s 2016, he had committed to trying Shepherd Center’s SHARE Military Initiative, a comprehensive rehabilitation program for service members who have sustained traumatic brain injuries and other mental health concerns from their time in the service.
“I owe my life to the program,” Shawn says. “The care and attention they provide, along with being able to pinpoint the issues at the root of everything, it’s just incredible.”
Since graduating from SHARE, Shawn served a stint as a coordinator with the Wounded Warrior Internship Program, helping military service members see what’s possible as they transition from the military back to civilian life. While there, Shawn began a paid internship program for disabled veterans. He has also served as a veterans’ liaison with the Combat Wounded Coalition, a nonprofit assisting veterans who earned Purple Hearts on the battlefield.
“What I want to try and do is take care of others because I remember everything I went through,” Shawn says. “If I can do something to make other veterans’ lives easier, I damn sure will.”
Today, Shawn is a network communications technician for the Airman & Family Readiness Center at MacDill Air Force Base. One of the best parts of the job? It’s in Tampa — close to where his two children – Shawn Jr., 9, and Mia, 5 – live with their mother.
To make a gift in support of the SHARE Military Initiative, contact Jon Roxland at 404-350-7314 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit shepherd.org/share.
Written by Phillip Jordan
Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neuromuscular conditions. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. In its more than four decades, Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 900 inpatients, 575 day program patients and more than 7,100 outpatients each year.