The confusion and stress of combat for Special Operations members doesn’t end with the blast or gunshot. From a combat theater to a medical facility in the U.S., the wounded Operator faces new hardships; profound isolation from family and friends who are often hundreds of miles away, the sudden loss of connection to comrades on the battlefield, and long hours in pain with little to do but relive the war. All of these hardships can detract from recovery and add to post-traumatic stress.
Stand By the Wounded is a 501(c) (EIN 45-2592861) nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting special operations service members with serious physical combat injuries who are either in transport back to the United States or hospitalized for recovery in long-term care facilities. While doctors and nurses attend to these wounded Operators’ medical needs, Stand By the Wounded strives to identify and fill less obvious voids.
Meeting our first goal will enable us to provide lightweight, wireless computer tablets to the seriously wounded. These devices can bridge the gap between the wounded Operator’s hospital bed and their families and friends at home and on the battlefield. Tablets give these special wounded warriors access to Skype and email, help them organize their treatment protocols, and medications, and put e-books, movies, and news sites within easy reach, all in the privacy of a hospital room.
In 2005 – while serving as an Assault Team Leader with the U.S. Army’s Special Operations Command in Iraq – Mark was critically wounded when bullets tore through both of his thighs. Mark was evacuated by helicopter and treated for numerous injuries including a badly shattered femur. Following a hospital stay in Germany, Mark spent a year on crutches while rehabbing in various facilities throughout the U.S. On New Year’s Eve just 18 months later, Mark was injured again when an explosion tore through his neck, shoulder, hands, and legs while executing a mission upon his return to Iraq. Following an emergency tracheotomy performed at the scene, Mark was again evacuated to Germany and then on to Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Following his release from Walter Reed, Mark spent a year intensively rehabbing his injuries at facilities on both coasts of the U.S.
Fortunately for Mark, the unit he served in offered access to some of the best medical and rehabilitation assets in the U.S. military. Those resources – combined with Mark’s intense commitment – allowed him to regain the needed functionality to re-join his unit and ultimately medically retire on his own terms.
During his 20-year career with the U.S. Army’s Special Operations Command, Mark served in the Ranger Regiment, Special Forces, and a Special Mission Unit (SMU). Mark was a key leader since the beginning of the Global War on Terrorism and his unit has taken on some of our nation’s most important missions over the last decade.
Mark Gellert received two Purple Hearts, two Silver Stars, four Bronze Stars and a Bronze Star with Valor. Mark served in over a dozen countries including multiple tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan between 2001 and 2010. Mark medically retired from the Army and resides in North Carolina with his family.
Joe Gomes rehabilitates and trains Special Operations members as the Director for Human Performance Initiatives for the Department of Defense and provides lead consultation strategies for Athletes’ Performance International. Joe received his Bachelor of Science degree in Sport Rehabilitation and Sport Science from St. Mary’s University in London and passionately continues his education in sports science and sports medicine. Joe strongly believes in giving back to the industry and regularly speaks both nationally and internationally on injury prevention strategies and human performance methodology. Joe resides in Southern Pines, NC with his wife Ashley and dog Lonzo.
Ryan Gellert has seen first-hand the need to support our nation’s Special Operations Troops. He has twice helped care for his brother Mark following injuries received in combat. Ryan currently resides in Salt Lake City, Utah with his wife, Xiaomin and son, and serves as Brand President, Black Diamond Equipment. Ryan spent five years living and working in SE China while establishing Black Diamond’s Asian operations and has a B.S.B.A in Finance from the University of North Carolina – Charlotte, an M.B.A. from Florida Tech and a J.D. from the University of Utah.
Robin Hoyle graduated from Stetson University College of Law in 1991 and embarked on a career that brings her back to Stetson as the Executive Director of the Tampa Law Center (TLC). She oversees the TLC and assists the Dean in alumni relations, community development, and fundraising. Robin began her career as a trial law clerk for the 5th Judicial Circuit of Florida followed by a move to law practice. In 1997, her career path led away from the firm and down the road of medical research, philanthropy, and association management. After serving as a volunteer for the MD Anderson Cancer Center Orlando, Robin became its only Major Gifts Officer. As MGO, she was part of a small team that raised millions of dollars to build the Charles Lewis Institute – a facility that houses the MD Anderson Cancer Center today. When that fundraising goal was achieved, she moved to Boston and worked for Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. From there, she developed her expertise in association management serving as Executive Director for several national medical subspecialty societies and related medical foundations. She has spent the last 13 plus years raising money for medical research, patient education, and becoming the “physician’s advocate”. Ms. Hoyle’s expertise is navigating the changing rules, codes, and laws governing relationships between Industry and Healthcare Practitioners.
Laitham Kellum is a career firefighter, paramedic, and a Captain at the Cocoa Beach Fire Station. He will take on any hazard to keep the public safe; he has years of valorous experience in technical rescue, surf rescue, and tactical (SWAT/EOD) medicine. Laitham is also an emergency medicine instructor for multiple military and civilian agencies. He is a lifelong waterman and regardless of weather condition, his free time is spent kite boarding, surfing, sailing, or paddling. Laitham lives in Cocoa Beach, Florida with his wife Valerie, their children, and more animals than Noah’s Ark.
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