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Wounded Marine and high school sweetheart to wed on Maui

By Staff | Jun 17, 2010

With help from Hope For The Warriors, Karl Newman and Jana Ward will marry on Maui next week.

Medically retired combat veteran Staff Sgt. Karl Newman, U.S. Marine Corps, and his high school sweetheart, Jana Ward, will make their dreams come true when they marry on June 21 on Maui.

Although they lost contact during Newman’s time on active duty, life-changing events in Iraq led Newman home to Peoria and to the love of his life.     They will be married in a small ceremony on the beach with 11 of their closest family members and friends.  

The wedding on Maui is happening through Hope For The Warriors, a national nonprofit organization that supports wounded service members, their families and families of the fallen.  

The wedding was granted as part of A Warrior’s Wish, one of the organization’s programs.  

Newman was deployed to Iraq in 2006 with 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines out of St. Louis. On Feb. 21, he was outside of Fallujah when he was knocked unconscious by an improvised explosive device (IED).    

He was evacuated and treated for traumatic brain injury, hearing loss, vertigo, vestibular issues and ankle and shoulder injuries. In spite of these injuries, Newman chose to return back to his unit.  

On June 28, another IED exploded in closer proximity to Newman. He was ultimately evacuated to Encinitas Memorial Hospital in San Diego to begin a long, slow rehabilitation process.  

When he arrived in San Diego, he could not walk, talk or hear. The final explosion also resulted in a more severe traumatic brain injury, as well as post traumatic stress, tinnitus (ringing of the ears) and other problems. Newman still suffers from all of these injuries today.

Newman was medically retired from the Marine Corps in June 2007 and he returned home to Peoria, a place he left in 1997 when he joined the Marines.  

Soon after, he saw Ward for the first time in ten years. His relationship with Ward and their upcoming nuptials provided Newman with much-needed love and happiness in an otherwise painful and slow rehabilitation.    

“Neither one of us lost feelings for each other, and we were in total amazement how we ended up back together… just like a wish or dream come true,” shared Newman.

To have the wedding ceremony that both bride and groom longed for, Newman applied for A Warrior’s Wish.

 Recognizing that the warrior’s positive spirit is an integral part of the rehabilitation process, the program attempts to grant wishes and dreams for severely wounded heroes.  

“In the process of recovery, our wounded service members and their families are often required to neglect everything but necessities due to financial constraints or additional hurdles created by physical disabilities. Hope For The Warriors attempts to impact the warrior’s quality of life beyond just recovery,” the nonprofit noted.  

Their wedding on the beach is being planned by Precious Maui Weddings. The guests include children of the bride and groom, groom’s mother and a few close friends. Groomsmen include two Marines; both were in Newman’s unit during his combat tour. One was wounded in Fallujah in November 2004, and he has since left the military. The other groomsmen is still on active duty.

American Airlines generously donated two first class tickets for the bride and groom. The other tickets were offered at a significantly reduced group rate.  

The couple and their 11 guests will stay in a rental house on Maui for eight nights. The cost of the wedding, reduced airfare and vacation home is being paid by Hope For The Warriors.  

“We are so happy for Karl and Jana and are happy that we, with the help of American Airlines, are able to make their day even more special and memorable,” said Robin Kelleher, president of Hope For The Warriors.

For information on the group, visit www.hopeforthewarriors.org.