Justin Bond had already served in the military, but when terrorists struck US soil on September 11, 2001, Justin reenlisted. In 2004, during the Battle of Fallujah, he was shot through both knees and despite multiple surgeries, he lost his left leg above the knee.
Justin spent months at Walter Reed Army Medical Center undergoing surgeries and recovering from his wounds. During his time there, he saw his fellow veterans struggling through the process of recovery, often spending months and even years at Walter Reed, separated from their families and support systems.
With ready access to alcohol and prescription medications, veterans who were already suffering from devastating injuries and/or PTSD were left alone to self-medicate and spiral into depression. Family visits were the most important catalyst to motivate the veterans to stop self-medicating, focus on rehabilitation and work toward recovery.
Though family visits were key to restoring a sense of normality to those struggling to get better, the military only paid for their family to visit one time and most families could not afford the expense of travel or lodging.
Though Justin lost his leg, he also found something important during the process – his new mission in his post-deployment life. He saw and experienced first hand the devastating hardships that veterans face when they come home from war.
Because of that, Justin worked to raise money and awareness for this issue and his testimony before Congress was instrumental in bringing about policy changes that allowed more family visits to their loved ones in recovery. With other nonprofits moving in to meet that specific need, Justin moved on to raise funds for improved morale and recreation opportunities for deployed soldiers in the field of combat.
While still in the hospital, Justin was brought a wheelchair to use after his amputation and told that he needed to use it. Not wanting to use a wheelchair, he sought out other options and was provided a Segway. The Segway worked well for him by allowing him to go farther than he would be able to walk on his own, but it was still limited to paved or smooth surfaces.
Then he was introduced to the Zoom through the Independence Fund. “It opened up more doors, more avenues to get out… and it’s fun!,” Justin explained. “It’s a tool that affords me the ability to live life like normal in the outdoors and a tool that allows me to keep up with my kids!” Justin especially enjoys using his Zoom to access the rugged outdoors and to join his kids on bike rides.
Just has done more than survive his injuries and post-war adjustment into civilian life – he has thrived by setting an example and giving back to his community of fellow veterans who face difficult challenges when they come home.
After successfully completing two self-assigned missions to help his fellow veterans, Justin relapsed into a familiar self-destructive pattern. “I fell into the trap of sitting on the couch and self-medicating. I was miserable for quite a while and then after my 11th friend committed suicide, I learned that we had to do more.”
This became the motivating force behind his new mission, “not just making sure that vets don’t commit suicide, but not letting them get to that point… though we have taken the guns out of quite a few mouths as well.”
Justin dedicated himself to the nonprofit he had started, Our Heroes’ Dreams (OHD), in order to meet the needs of veterans. He believes one the most effective ways to help veterans is to provide them with a new mission. A post-combat objective that can provide purpose, motivation and integration into civilian society.
In addition to helping them discover their new purpose, OHD takes a holistic approach to meeting the needs of veterans and their families. This can include providing counseling for the veteran and family members, assisting with home or car repair, job placement, team building exercises and retreats. OHD also knows the importance of helping veterans feel alive again! “We take them skydiving, scuba diving, sailing, swimming with sharks… whatever it takes to let them know… hey, you can have an adrenaline rush after combat!”, Justin explained.
Justin will soon be embarking on a new mission of his own. Mission 22 is all about reducing the number of veteran suicides that occur each day. Currently, that number is 22. OHD is in the process of developing a full time ranch, Camp Freedom, that could help approximately 1,000 veterans per year.
“Camp Freedom will be a place for veterans of all generations and their families to come out for counseling of all types and we can evaluate their needs… Figure out what is keeping them on the couch, what’s hindering them from taking on their new mission. Our counselors are Vietnam and WWII vets that have 40 years experience with PTSD… We can’t make them fix themselves, but we can give them the best opportunity that we can to get into a new mission.”
To raise money for the land and operational expenses, Justin is leading the Mission 22 West Coast Ride. This endeavor will involve 2 veterans and 2 dogs riding 2 Zooms 2,200 miles from Canada to Mexico in hopes of saving 1 of the 22 a day.
Shortly after the Zoom was introduced here in the US, Justin was brought on board as an Ambassador. In that capacity, he has helped to deliver a number of Zooms on the West Coast. He hopes that this ride will not only help raise awareness for veteran suicides, but for Zoomability as well. “We want to raise awareness for the Zoom, because a lot of people can benefit from it,” Justin said.
Dedicated to the preservation of freedom, Justin exemplifies A FREE MIND IN MOTION!