By Richard Rhinehart
Denver, Colorado, June 3, 2013 – Recognizing the discouragement and the loneliness that can come when an injured military veteran retires from active duty, retired Army Mental Health Specialist Cpt. Brian Gliba decided to do something positive for the thousands of veterans returning home from combat.
With a master’s degree in sports psychology, Gliba founded Project Wounded Ego with the simple goal of creating photo DVDs containing uplifting digital images of injured veterans actively participating in sporting events, such as World T.E.A.M. Sports’ recent Face of America bicycle ride from the Pentagon to Gettysburg.
“At the end of the events,” Gliba said, “I present the DVDs to each warrior with a five second training session on when and how to view the photos.”
A veteran himself with two tours of Iraq, Gliba was medically retired from the Army in December 2009 after he was hit by an IED during a mission in Iraq, causing mild traumatic brain injury, neck and spinal issues, PTSD, and hormonal problems. Accompanied with his service dog Zeus, Gliba now travels to sporting events nationally to document wounded warriors.
“When you are at your darkest and you feel like life is worthless,” Gliba reports, the DVDs can be helpful to a veteran. He instructs each veteran receiving a DVD to “remind yourself through these photos that you have a purpose, that you can succeed at the challenges of life and that you can and do inspire other wounded warriors around you even though you don’t even know it. So keep on punching and kicking and fighting your way through life as it’s meant to be a challenge. Life is worth living.”
Working with 15 organizations serving injured veterans, Gliba says he has helped “a few hundred warriors” with his Ego DVD to date. Based in Strasburg, Colorado, his growing organization sends five wounded warriors who are accomplished photographers to sporting events nationally. At each even, the photographers digitally photograph and video the participating veterans. Though their services are free of charge to the veterans, Gliba reports his organization is actively seeking assistance. “I am always looking for sponsors to help supplement our travel costs. For a one week event, it typically will run us $2,000 to send two photographers, depending on airfare, of course. Our ultimate goal is to provide our services to everything wounded warrior and eventually everything disability related.”
“I’m partnering with the U.S. Paralympic Committee and the Valor Games to offer my Ego DVD to all the participants of the games. I’m also working with Freedom Hunters, Challenge Aspen, Horses for Heroes, Operation TBI Freedom, Hanger Clinics, and the VFW. I am working arrangements for summer programs with World T.E.A.M. Sports, which I am really excited about.”
Gliba reports that the DVDs work. “I attended one of the Soldier Rides where I met another really good friend who never had ridden bikes much,” he recalls. “The Soldier Ride was an opportunity for him to express his physical needs of exercise and psychological needs of comradery. After a few hours of hanging out with him, I found out that he had tried to commit suicide just the week prior. I talked to him about my program and what I was doing and he was very receptive to it. He allowed me to shoot some comical images of him. I later found out via email that he followed my directions and when he wanted to commit suicide again, he viewed the DVD I sent him. He told me that if it wasn’t for what I did, he probably would not be breathing. He told me to tell his story and thanked me and encouraged me to continue on, despite my funding shortfalls.”
“My goal now is to educate our nations’ wounded about the facts of suicide with hopes that my psychological photography products and services will make an impact in someone’s life and stop them from pulling the trigger.”
Richard Rhinehart serves as Director of Communications for World T.E.A.M. Sports.