On a quiet morning in October of 2003, Jeff Sinchak grabbed his rifle and satellite phone.
From Iraq, he checked in with his wife to find out how the kids were doing back home in Washington state.
As Jeff and Kyrstie chatted about school and ordinary daily activities, 20 rockets screamed over Sinchak’s shoulder. Most of the projectiles, from an improvised rocket launcher, impacted the building behind him – the Al Rasheed Hotel.
“I didn’t run. I was stunned. I actually hesitated for the first time in my military career,” Sinchak recalled. “Then, a moment later, I got right back into action helping the injured.”
In his 24-year military career, Sinchak was a Hospital Corpsman, a Navy Diver and a member of various Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Naval Special Warfare teams. He served during Operation Southern Watch, Operation Restore Hope, and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Through his service Sinchak suffered a number of injuries, including a gunshot wound, an arterial gas embolism, decompression sickness, and a broken foot.
The most devastating injury though was one that wasn’t visible to others. It was “coming home.”
“Because of where I was emotionally and physically coming out of Iraq, the Navy gave me a strong recommendation to retire,” Sinchak said. “I didn’t want to, but I followed orders.”
Leaving the military in 2007 and finding a civilian career was a difficult transition for Sinchak, who joined the Navy when he was 17 years old.
When he lost his uniform, Sinchak lost his identity.
“I felt a little guilty about being alive and out of the military,” he said. “So many men came home with severe injuries. They were missing arms and legs, but for me everything was intact, more or less. Still, everything felt wrong. It was a difficult, bumpy, uncomfortable time.”
In his struggle to cope, Sinchak learned about the Wounded Warrior Project. The nonprofit organization, founded in 2003, provides assistance to men and women who incurred physical or mental injuries while serving in the military. The group’s focus is service members who incurred service-related wounds, injuries, or illnesses on or after September 11, 2001.
After receiving counseling and support, Sinchak became a spokesman for the organization. He was at Starbucks headquarters in Seattle recently to accept a $50,000 check for the Wounded Warrior Project.
The funds came from sales of the Verismo® System by Starbucks. The at-home machine makes brewed Starbucks® coffee, espresso and latte beverages using Verismo™ pods. Starbucks donated $5 from the sale of specially marked packages to support the Wounded Warrior Project.
“There’s so much more that we can do,” said David Hanson, vice president Starbucks Global Channel Development. “It feels good to know that we – along with our customers – are helping make a difference in the lives of military men and women with specific needs after their service.”
The hosted Wounded Warrior Project's visit to the company's Seattle headquarters. Launched and led by veterans in 2009, the AFN is a partner network for Starbucks employees and their families who are active duty, veterans or supporters.
As part of Starbucks initiative to hire 10,000 veterans and military spouses by the end of 2018, the AFN launched Roll Call, inviting partners to identify their connection with the military.
“Communities can improve the lives of men and women who are transitioning from military to civilian life,” said Sinchak. “I know that personally.”