Anthony Ameen admits he used to be a little wild in high school. Now 30, with eight years of military service and two tours overseas on his resume, those days have been left behind.
The Ahwatukee Foothills native now focuses on helping his fellow veterans. Ameen was seriously injured in Afghanistan by an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) and lost the bottom half of his right leg. He stepped on one as he was running to the aid of a wounded soldier.
That was 31 surgeries ago, before he spent years fighting the legal system to get approved for his benefits as a wounded veteran.
Additionally, when Ameen returned to the states, he said he felt the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder. Instead of being the "social butterfly" he once was, he called it a weird feeling, one that told him it was better to stay inside.
"You really come back a different person, I am living proof of that," Ameen said.
After he was wounded, he received a Purple Heart and Navy-Marine Corps Achievement Medal with Combat Valor and returned to the United States.
As a wounded soldier, Ameen was entitled to compensation and one would like to think that the process was smooth sailing. But nothing in this life is easy, even for the men and women who put their lives on the line for our freedom.
Part of the compensation involves what is called Traumatic Servicemembers' Group Life Insurance (TSGLI). For the loss of body parts or significant injury, military men and women can receive up to $100,000, depending on the severity. A leg is worth more than a finger, for example.
To help facilitate the process of securing these benefits, veterans are assigned case workers by the Veteran's Administration.
Ameen said his experience with these case workers was frustrating.
"What I saw, and it might just be because they have been stuck in their jobs for a long time, but they were getting lazy; nothing was getting done," he said.
Ameen ended up dropping his case worker and took up the issue himself.
Now fighting his own battles, things started to happen. Ameen's dealings with Social Security to receive disability turned into a lawsuit. He ended up winning the case and his eyes would be opened to what takes place everyday: Compensation is not always guaranteed for wounded veterans.
Because of that, Ameen started an organization called Wings for Warriors. Just approved as a 501c3 nonprofit organization in March, Wings for Warriors is designed to help soldiers of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars get back on their feet when they return to the states, whether that involves pointing them in the direction of legal help, helping them socialize, or whatever else they might need.
"They make you fight for it (claims)," Ameen said. "Everyone who calls me is griping and complaining about the same thing. What's enough for these groups to finally give?"
Still in the early stages, Wings for Warriors is working on finding volunteers and securing funding. The funding will help with things like legal services or, as Ameen knows from experience, travel costs for families.
"I had 18 to 20 surgeries in that first year," he said. "My parents would fly to San Antonio with a day's notice. It definitely wasn't cheap. And parents want to be there when their kid has surgery."
Ameen's Social Security payments are allowing him to build his organization full time. He is making appearances, including one on the "Last Call with Carson Daly" show, to talk about his cause.
His goal is to make Wings of Warriors a comprehensive organization that can help veterans with all the problems when they return from combat. Until then, Ameen said he will continue to spread the word and educate his fellow veterans on the services available to them.
If you would like to help or find more information, visit his website, www.WingsforWarriors.org, or call (480) 779-9464.
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