We Are Who We Serve

By Emily Oehler, WTC Stratcom

There are all kinds of approaches to leadership—one that has resonated with me is the “servant leader.” By giving priority and added attention to the needs of their colleagues and those they serve, a servant leader achieves greater results for their organization. They are often seen as humble stewards of their organization’s resources—staff, finances, and physical items.

This week at the annual AW2 Symposium, I was surrounded by them…

  • Allen:  A Soldier who educated other wounded warriors about the benefits of service dogs for PTSD by introducing them to his dog Frankie.
  • Delano:  An AW2 Soldier, and a cute, smaller, more friendly version of Lawrence Taylor, who showed his support of the other wounded warrior’s kids by trying to attend the closing event at Operation Purple camp©—even though high pitched sounds, including kids squeals and laughter, are a key PTSD trigger.
  • Diana:  An AW2 reservist’s wife who fought for years to keep her family and marriage together as they learned how to live a new life due to her husband’s severe injuries, is now turning her attention to be an advocate for other spouses. She plans to share all she learned along her own journey to make things easier for those who follow.
  • Dreyson:  A wounded warrior’s 7-year-old son who knows to dial 911, that loud noises are triggers, and that plans always change due to his dad’s PTSD episodes. This week he supported the AW2 staff as a reporter—using a flip camera to capture AW2 kids at Operation Purple© to help the Army talk about the needs of wounded warrior’s children.
  • Gina:  An AW2 spouse who has involved her community in her husband’s care so that the rock quarry by their house calls 30 minutes before they start drilling so that she can better manage her husband’s PTSD reaction to what he thinks are mortar attacks.
  • James:  A Veteran who’s whole life came crashing down due to severe PTSD, shared his self-doubt, his pain, his anxieties, and his darkness to a room full of reporters in hopes of increasing awareness of the struggles so many other Soldiers and Veterans face. He worried about the fallout of his actions, but put helping others first.
  • Melissa:  An AW2 spouse who described herself as her husband’s “woobie”—a calming influence when his PTSD flairs up. Throughout the week I saw her in action soothing him with a hand squeeze, a strong embracing hug, or a gentle stroke, and kiss of his bald head to bring him back.
  • Tony:  A triple Purple Heart recipient who continues to serve the troops after decades on active duty as an AW2 Advocate.
Melvin Kearney, a retired sergeant and AW2 Advocate, took time out during the week to play with toddlers at the AW2 Symposium as a human jungle gym.

Melvin Kearney, a retired sergeant and AW2 Advocate, took time out during the week to play with toddlers at the AW2 Symposium as a human jungle gym.

All of the 65 delegates were in fact servant leaders—putting the needs of the wounded warriors that will follow ahead of themselves and the ongoing challenges they face every day dealing with severe injuries. It was obvious that what called them to serve in the Army in the first place, was still alive and strong.

For those who are looking for a way to serve your country or lead in your community—I ask you to consider becoming a servant leader…and look for ways you can support those who served in military service. Trust me when I say, they are an amazing group of people to know who will teach you a lot about what it means to lead, sacrifice, and make a difference.

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