When John Melia saw young Marines in the post-911 military actions experiencing the same injuries he had faced, he decided to take action to help.
“I was a Marine in the early ’90s, and I was injured in a Marine Corps helicopter crash that killed four of my friends and injured 14 of us. So my experience coming home as a wounded vet kind of showed me some of the gaps in service delivery to [wounded] military members,” remarked Melia.
From his basement in Roanoke with several family members and friends, Melia raised $5,000, put together 50 backpacks filled with items such as underwear, socks and CD players, and then delivered them to injured soldiers in Washington, DC, military hospitals. The backpacks were an instant hit. Hospital staff requested more, and the Wounded Warriors Project was born.
“The backpack says Wounded Warrior Project on it. These guys are not with their units anymore, and seeing the words makes them realize they’re still appreciated and loved by the American people. That means something,” explains Melia.
Melia’s determination to make amazing things happen created an organization that continues to serve thousands of injured soldiers. Almost 18,000 backpacks have been distributed over the years. Melia overcame his own injuries and helped thousands of others find recovery as well.
Melia retired from his position as CEO in 2009 to pursue other opportunities. In 2011, the Wounded Warrior Project was questioned for overcompensating executives and saw a decline in funds in 2012. Today, however, the Wounded Warrior Project devotes 80% of its profits to the program with millions of dollars going towards supporting injured veterans.
Melia has remained an active member and continues to assist the Wounded Warrior Project in various capacities, including resource development and public relations. His devotion to service disabled veterans since retiring from his position with Wounded Warriors continues strong through his entrepreneurial leadership in companies such as Goverline, RecruitMilitary Staff and Veterans Energy Force. Melia currently resides in Houston, Texas, and is working for Signa Engineering Corp. as Vice President for Special Projects.
NATEL salutes John Melia and the amazing things he has accomplished for our country’s veterans.