When Mystic Seaport President Steve White learned last year that a local yacht club held a special regatta for members of the Wounded Warriors Project, he knew this was something the Museum needed to be involved with.
“The Mystic Seaport experience presents a marvelous opportunity for our Wounded Warriors and their families,” White said. And so planning commenced in late winter among various Museum departments, and several staff members who are also veterans were brought into help, including Brehan Brady, a member of Wounded Warriors and a rigger at the Museum.
The planning culminates Saturday, June 17, in a special day for members of the Wounded Warriors Project, their families and their caregivers.
“We are pleased and proud to open our campus and our arms to them for a special day of activities and camaraderie,” White said.
Mystic Seaport worked with the New York chapter of Wounded Warriors Project, which includes New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Invitations were sent to members of the chapter, their families and caregivers to enjoy a day at the Museum as our guests. More than 130 people are expected to attend.
After an official welcome ceremony in the morning in the Claggett Boat Shed, guests will hear an historical overview of the Museum, have guided tours of the Henry B. DuPont Preservation Shipyard and the current restoration projects (Sabino and Mayflower II), watch demonstrations by riggers, blacksmiths and coopers, take a waterfront tour on board Liberty, view a Planetarium show and enjoy a complimentary cookout lunch provided by Coastal Gourmet.
Brehan Brady said he was gratified and humbled by the Museum staff’s interest in providing a day of experience at Mystic Seaport to Wounded Warriors. Staff Sgt. Brady served in the U.S. Army as an infantryman with the 101st Airborne Division from 1999 through 2007, including two deployments to Iraq and one to the Sinai Peninsula. He saw active combat on the front lines through much of his service. Brady suffered several severe concussions during his service, and in 2010 was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury related to those concussions. He suffered damage to his occipital lobe and among other issues, suffers from an extreme sensitivity to light. He came to work at Mystic Seaport as an interpreter two years ago, and for the last 18 months has worked as a rigger.
Brady belongs to the Wounded Warriors Project, and says it always bothered him living in Connecticut that there weren’t more activities near his home in Pawcatuck to be part of. The New York chapter covers Connecticut and New Jersey and the Boston chapter covers Rhode Island so he found himself in a bit of a no man’s land.
“It’s always been in the back of my mind that this place has tremendous potential to have a positive impact on the lives of veterans,” he said.
The Museum’s involvement with veterans will continue past the Saturday event. In the fall, the Mystic Seaport Sailing Center will host a series of sailing classes for veterans.
“The goal of this class is to build camaraderie among veterans of all eras and services,” said Ben Ellcome, Assistant Manager of Sailing Programs. “The veterans will learn basic sailing and whaleboat rowing but they will also learn about the history of the sea through the historic vessels at the museum. The museum grounds and our fleet of historic watercraft will be used as floating classrooms to further the veterans’ understanding of our common history of the sea and sailing.”
Brady understands the power of Mystic Seaport for veterans.
“My coworkers and friends at Mystic Seaport have played the biggest role in my recovery from what happened to me overseas, and I know that all those who attend the event will benefit from the experience. This is a very special place.”
After the idea was floated to host Wounded Warriors, “there was overwhelming support for it,” he noted. “So many people from across departments said ‘How can I help?’ It was really validating. I like to say that I got back in 2007 (from the war) but I felt like I came home when I started working here.”