Not all wounds are visible. For Yolanda Poullard, a retired U.S. Army Major, the injury was to her spirit and her mental well-being. Yolanda spent more than 18 years in the military, including serving as a company commander leading more than 200 soldiers in Afghanistan.
She was on her way to headquarters when her team was attacked and three of her comrades were killed. Yolanda was devastated and felt guilty that she had not been with her team when the attack occurred.
“Once you experience war, you’re a different person,” she says.
By the time she returned to Louisiana, Yolanda was incapacitated by post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), unable to do everyday tasks or enjoy activities with her daughter. “My sister was a walking shell,” said Yolanda’s sister, Betty.
Fortunately, Yolanda received treatment from UCLA Health Operation Mend. The program offers free medical and psychological care for service members, veterans and their families. The Wounded Warrior Project, which partners with Operation Mend, provides an intensive treatment program for those suffering from service-related mild traumatic brain injury and PSTD.
“It teaches you how to look at life differently,” Yolanda says. “This program is helping to save lives.”
As Laker for a Day, Yolanda, her sister and her daughter Alanah spent a day touring the UCLA Health Training Center. They returned a week later for the game, joined by some of Yolanda’s friends from the Wounded Warrior Project. The family dined at the Lexus Club at STAPLES Center, watched warm-ups courtside and met Lakers assistants and sports news icon Jim Hill. When Yolanda came onto the floor for recognition, she received a customized camouflage Laker jersey as a special thank you for her service to our country.