WISH for OUR HEROES (W4OH) volunteers spent 2 days in the Washington DC area to grant a very deserving wish for a local Indiana family. SPC Tim Senkowski, born and raised in Anderson, Indiana, was severely wounded in October 2011. Tim was serving in the Kandahar province, Afghanistan, with the 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division. In October 2011, while on patrol, Tim stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED), which took both of his legs (above the knee), part of his arm, and right buttock. In the blast, one of Tim’s good friends, Jeremiah Sancho was killed. The 29-year old Senkowski has a family back home with challenges of their own. Tim’s wife, Erica, is wheelchair bound as she has severe rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. She struggles to care for their two children – 6-year-old Dusty and 11-month-old Embry.
When W4OH personnel learned about SPC Senkowski’s situation, they immediately contacted the family to see what assistance the Indiana-based charity could provide. Many charities had already worked with the family to provide the basic necessities, so it was very difficult to identify any materials needs for the Senkowski’s. In April 2012, WISH for OUR HEROES board member, Erich Orrick, had a long conversation with Tim’s mother, and W4OH’s mission for the Senkowski family became very clear. Tammy mentioned that there was a certain medic who was solely responsible for saving Tim’s life. The medic’s name was Dustin Wisdom. Dustin was a member of the Special Forces, and was stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Tim and Dustin talked on a regular basis, but they had not seen each other since Tim’s injury.
W4OH coordinated a trip for Dustin and his family to visit Washington DC in order to reunite Dustin and Tim. Dustin and his family arrived on the evening of May 8, 2012. Dustin, a 26-year old Sergeant First Class, stands 6’3” tall, but is very soft spoken, humble, and was extremely nervous when he first met the W4OH team. As he met with W4OH volunteers, he took his time and sized everyone up. Once he realized that W4OH personnel also had military experience and that he was amongst friends, he relaxed and for the next 3 hours, he told the incredible story of how he saved the life of SPC Tim Senkowski.
When the IED detonated, Dustin heard the blast from several hundred meters away and immediately knew that due to the dismounted nature of their patrol, there would be serious casualties. He grabbed his gear and sprinted toward the blast. Along the way, he came into contact with one wounded soldier after another, and as he moved closer to the blast area, the severity of the injuries increased. He quickly treated the soldiers he came into contact with, as they kept yelling for him to go help Senkowski. Along the way, he ran into Jeremiah Sancho, who was in front of Senkowski at the time the IED detonated. Dustin took Sancho’s vitals and realized he was no longer among the living. He pulled a poncho and covered him, out of respect for him and the other soldiers. Dustin continued to run toward the blast crater, and inside the crater, Dustin found Senkowski. The details of Senkowski’s physical state at that point are almost incomprehensible to the average person. Dustin initially thought that Senkowski was dead, as there was no way anyone could have lived through a direct explosion of that magnitude. As Dustin moved toward Senkowski, Tim said something, which totally startled Dustin. Dustin’s instincts then took over and for the next 2-3 hours he fought to keep Tim alive. They were patrolling in such a remote area of Afghanistan, it took nearly 40 minutes for the MEDEVAC chopper to arrive. During that time, Dustin treated Senkowski and continued to talk to him. He said everything he could think of to keep Tim focused, so that he would continue fighting for his life. Finally the MEDEVAC arrived and Dustin accompanied Tim to the nearest triage center.
Through the next several days, Tim fought for his life and Dustin was by his side the entire time. Once Tim was somewhat stabilized, he was evacuated to Germany, and then to Walter Reed Bethesda hospital in Bethesda, Maryland. His family was notified and since that day, his mother, Tammy, has not left his side. Due to Erica’s medical situation and the needs of their children, Erica stayed in Indiana and visits whenever possible. Tammy uprooted herself from Indiana and moved to Bethesda to live with Tim 24-7. Tim has progressed significantly and now is in the process of growing comfortable with his two prosthetic legs.
On May 9 2012, W4OH volunteers entered a room and met Tim for the first time. Tim, flanked by his mother Tammy, and his chain of command, looked up as W4OH personnel entered the room. Tim seemed to be confused as to who these people were, but they explained that they were a military charity from Indiana and had heard about Tim’s situation. They said that they wanted to thank him for his service and sacrifice and proceeded to present him with a W4OH coin. Tim calmed down and thanked everyone for visiting. As the meeting seemed to be coming to an end, W4OH volunteers informed Tim that they had brought one more present along with them. At that moment, Dustin and his family entered the room. The second that Tim laid eyes on Dustin, the two of them embraced and shared tears of joy. There was not a dry in the room. To make the moment even more special, Dustin had brought his wife, Chloe, and their 3 year old daughter Leah to also meet Tim.
For the next several hours, everyone in attendance sat there in quiet reflection watching two American heroes, reunited through a bond of brotherhood stronger than anyone could imagine. Melissa Jarboe, also a W4OH volunteer, accompanied the team in granting this wish for Senkowski. Melissa’s husband, SSG Jamie Jarboe, passed away on March 21, 2012 after a year-long battle with serious injuries sustained in Afghanistan due to a sniper attack. Melissa, an unbelievably strong woman, has dedicated her life to helping other military families. Throughout the day at Walter Reed Bethesda, Melissa spent countless hours reconnecting with nurses who had treated Jamie, as well as other wounded warriors that were near and dear to her. Melissa has a Facebook page that chronicles her family’s journey. Their story is unbelievable. It can be found at: http://www.facebook.com/#!/jarboefamily.
To make the day even more special, Yael Israel Roggen joined the wish team, and handed out bags of candy to every wounded warrior that passed by. Yael is the founder of Treats for Our Troops, and along with many volunteers, spends each day sending care packages and handing out treats to our nations’ heroes. Her Facebook site can be found at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Treats-4-Our-Troops/165771763532.
After Tim and Dustin had a chance to visit and catch up, WISH for OUR HEROES had one more surprise for Tim and his family. W4OH president Jeff Wells presented the Senkowski family with tickets to the 2012 Indianapolis 500. “Tim, as a Hoosier, you understand the history and tradition associated with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. As a very small token of our appreciation for your service to our country, and on behalf of WISH for OUR HEROES and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, we would like to present your family with tickets to this year’s Indy 500. Although we understand you may not be able to attend due to your injuries, we want you to know that we’re going to take great care of your family back home, and we’ll give them the race of a lifetime here in a few weeks,” Wells explained. These tickets were generously donated through a new program started in March 2012 between WISH for OUR HEROES and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Donors have the opportunity to donate funds specifically to send military members to any of the races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Donors can make a general donation or can purchase an entire ticket for a military member. Also, for anyone that owns a ticket they may not be using, there is the option to donate the ticket to a military member. Donors can specify which branch they would like to donate their ticket, and they can also specify things like ‘wounded military member’, ‘veteran’, etc. For more information or to make a donation, visit www.wish4ourheroes.org.
Mission accomplished. The next morning, WISH for OUR HEROES personnel boarded a plane. Destination: the next military family in need.