Anthony Ameen’s story is a battlefield story that resounds with heroism.
Unless it refers to other wounded warriors.
The Class of 2000 Desert Vista High School alumnus, still known as “Doc” Ameen, cares so much for these returning injured warriors that he founded a nonprofit, called “Wings for Warriors,” six years ago to help them.
The Purple Heart recipient also has been lobbying for changes in the way his wounded veterans are treated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
He remembers all too well how financial and healthcare benefits were often hard to obtain as he battled back through more than 30 surgeries as he recovered from a lost limb and other injuries he sustained in Afghanistan.
His organization stemmed from a project called “Wings for Anthony” that Ahwatukee neighbors and friends undertook to help his parents, Rusty and Jan Ameen get to their youngest son’s side as he recovered from horrendous combat wounds.
On July 21, 2008, during a Taliban counterattack in Nowzad, Afghanistan, Ameen, operating with the 2nd Battalion/7th Marine First Division was radioed by his platoon staff sergeant to assist a wounded Marine.
Without a thought for his own safety, Ameen set off on a harrowing and life-altering run.
“I started running to help him and stepped on an IED,” Ameen recalled “The amount of pain I felt that morning was so intense, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I’m very fortunate to have lived through that.”
Only four months into his Afghanistan deployment, the then-27 year-old said he knew he’d lost his left foot.
The extent of his injuries would later be found to include two shattered legs and a crushed left wrist with two dangling fingers.
His corpsman training kicked in as he clearly remembered hanging on to those two fingers so they wouldn’t be lost.
During his ensuing 32 surgeries, the lower half of his left leg was amputated. Reconstructive surgeries were required for his left hand and fingers. His “noodle” of a right leg was eventually reconstructed but for some time, its fate was borderline.
And then there was the mental and emotional suffering of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Jan Ameen recalled the phone call that changed their lives.
“We hurriedly made plans to fly to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio to be by our son's bedside,” she said.
“Little did we know, that, that would be the first of many flights over the next two years,” she said.
It was then that Wings for Anthony was launched.
“We were so touched, but set the money aside for later use,” Jan said. “Little did we know at the time that it would come full circle. He later used that money to help start his nonprofit, Wings for Warriors.”
“Anthony's dream has come true, for he’s helped provide assistance to over 2,000 wounded warriors with healthcare, financial benefits and counseling,” she added.
“Plus, over 300 military families have received travel assistance,” she continued. “We are so very proud of him, not only for his fight on the battlefield, but for his fight here at home, fighting for his fellow vets and families.”
Anthony Ameen said, “It was very difficult for my family and I during this time because of the multitude of surgeries I was undergoing, and combined with the medication I was on. And even with a case manager representing me, I somehow managed to fall through the cracks,”
Though honored with numerous service medals, including the Navy-Marine Corps Achievement Medal with Combat Valor Distinction, Ameen was without Social Security benefits for nearly two years.
Finally, through tenacity of spirit and congressional assistance, his back benefits finally arrived. He added that money to the Wings for Anthony funds and established Wings for Warriors.
The nonprofit’s goal is to help other warriors wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan by providing individual counseling, financial assistance—and sometimes just kind “I’ve been there” encouragement.
“There are over 56,000 plus combat wounded veterans that have returned home from Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said. “I understand and know first-hand what these wounded warriors are facing on a daily basis with regards to their recovery process.”
“As for their benefits, it’s not an easy task to make certain that all of the entitlements they’re promised are met and delivered in a timely fashion,” he added.
“It’s extremely stressful and draining for wounded warriors to make a dozen phone calls and/or emails a day to track down their benefits when all the while they should be focused strictly on their healthcare, recovery and families,” Ameen said.
He knows well the costs of ongoing recovery; his current leg prosthetic, a carbon fiber VSP, can run up to $30,000.
Besides serving as the CEO of Wings for Warriors, Ameen is studying healthcare management while continuing to speak about his nonprofit nationwide.
Launched in Arizona in 2010, the nonprofit now has volunteers in 28 cities nationwide.
“These volunteers help spread the word about us and host fundraising events. They also help find eligible veterans who need our help,” said Ameen.
Ameen lives in Ahwatukee with wife Stephanie, a realtor with the Mendoza Team; their twin son and daughter Vance and Vivian; and two daughters, Madelyn and Laycie.
His passion, besides his family, remains helping those who have been injured in the line of duty.
“These wounded warriors fought for us. It’s time we fight for them,” he said.
His mother and father concur.
“We sometimes forget about our veteran community. On Veterans Day, Wings for Warriors hosts their first Annual Gala at the Arizona Biltmore. It's such an honor to be a part of such a worthy cause. What an excellent opportunity to honor and celebrate our veterans and their families, especially on Veteran's day,” said Jan Ameen.