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Lasting Memories: WTU Recovery Opens Doors to New Business, New Baby, and Presidential Meeting

By Emily D. Anderson, WTC Stratcom

A view of the fireworks over the South Lawn during the Fourth of July celebration at the White House where 12 servicemembers received a special tour.  (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

A view of the fireworks over the South Lawn during the Fourth of July celebration at the White House where 12 servicemembers received a special tour. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Staff Sgt. Patrick Percefull will never forget his three deployments, saving the lives of numerous children by wrestling a buffalo and the upcoming birth of his son, but he recently added touring the White House and meeting the President to his memory bank.

“I was among 11 other military members selected for a tour and to meet the President during the Independence Day celebration,” said Staff Sgt. Patrick Percefull who is assigned to the Warrior Transition Unit (WTU), Fort Bragg, N.C. “We were taken into the White House and given a nice tour ending with a meeting with the President and First Lady.”

“This was a perfect American moment, and I’m honored that I was selected to attend,” he added. “It is such a significant event that I’ll hold with me forever.”

After 11 years of service, Percefull, who was shot in the shoulder and neck when his squad walked into an ambush in Afghanistan, credits his time at the Fort Bragg WTU as a wonderful experience, but decided to transition out of the military and focus on his efforts as an entrepreneur.

“I heard all of these stories, but every step of this process has been pretty smooth,” he added. “When I leave the military, I’ll be able to help my wife with the consignment store she bought with my deployment check, especially once the baby arrives.”

He understands the process is not the same for everyone, but offers some words of advice to other WTU Soldiers.

“No one’s going to take care of you like you, so Soldiers can’t be afraid to ask questions,” he said. “I was like others, not wanting to embarrass myself, but there’s a system in place to help and it saves a lot of grief.”

Percefull is speaking about the Comprehensive Transition Plan, a plan designed to be a roadmap for recovery and transition, with personal and professional milestones, such as passing a physical fitness test, taking college courses, or participating in internships and job training.

The CTP is developed by the Soldier in consultation with his or her Family, unit leaders, and health professionals.  Soldiers set short- and long-term goals in each of six domains: physical, spiritual, emotional, Family, social, and career. Soldiers meet with their interdisciplinary support team of clinical and non-clinical professionals on a regular basis to discuss their progress on these goals and how the WTU network can support them.

Percefull encourages others to seriously think about the future because a good support system and new career path can make the journey easier.

Breaking Down Barriers through Adaptive Sports

By LuAnn Georgia, WTC Stratcom

Swimmers and non-swimmers alike were able to participate in tubing fun at Fort Belvoir, Va. Wounded Soldier Jordan Knox along with Shelly Neal, spouse of retired Soldier William Neal, enjoy a few laughs on an exhilarating spin around Tompkins Basin.

Swimmers and non-swimmers alike were able to participate in tubing fun at Fort Belvoir, Va. Wounded Soldier Jordan Knox along with Shelly Neal, spouse of retired Soldier William Neal, enjoy a few laughs on an exhilarating spin around Tompkins Basin.

Tompkins Basin, Fort Belvoir, Va., was the site for a group of wounded, ill, or injured Soldiers, Veterans, their Families and Caregivers to gather for some fun in the sun and water activities.

Two Top Mountain Adaptive Sports Foundation and Team River Runner (both non-profit participants in Community Support Network) joined forces to offer a day of tubing, water skiing, sailing, flat-water kayaking, and camaraderie as part of their adaptive sports initiatives.

Bill Dietrich, Executive Director of ‘Two Top’- a chapter of Disabled Sports USA, runs a summer and winter program which benefits wounded warriors and their Families and was on hand to discuss their program and the effects it has on the participants.

“I love helping people do things they didn’t realize they could do,” Said Mr. Dietrich. “Our program works with all sorts of disabilities.  There aren’t many we can’t help.  Some people are fearful when they first start out, but building trust is essential. It’s key to an individual letting their guard down, breaking down barriers, and allowing themselves to have fun.”

“Getting everyone together and helping them try new things or just seeing them enjoy themselves offers a lot of rewards.” But according to Mr. Dietrich, “It’s not a one man show.  Without our incredible volunteers, these programs wouldn’t be possible.”

During the summer, water sport events are offered at different locations and are usually held a couple of times a month.  The summer programs are only available during the week days, in order to avoid the weekend crowds.  Reservations are required in order to properly plan and staff the events.  According to Dietrich, an ongoing challenge is getting enough volunteers together at one time, as the majority of volunteers still have regular jobs.  He added, “it takes between 8-10 people to properly staff for just one water skier.”

While summer activities are only offered during the week days, the bulk of winter activities are held on weekends. Snow skiing and snowboarding sports, including lessons, are offered at Two Top Mountain in Whitetail Resort in Mercersburg, Pa.

Dietrich, the 2012 recipient of the Army’s Spirit of Hope award is passionate about his program, the impact and joy it’s brought him as well as those he helps.  All programs are free to wounded, ill, or injured population.  “As long as I can continue to raise the money to fund the program, it will be free for our wounded warriors.”

For information about Two Top Mountain Adaptive Sports Foundation visit:   www.twotopadaptive.org.  You can find information about Team River Runner at www.TeamRiverRunner.org.

AW2 Veteran Explains Importance of Resources in Civilian Workforce

By Emily D. Anderson, WTC STRATCOM

AW2 Veteran Robert Murafsky shares his transition story publicly to inspire wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans and gain support for the AW2 community. (Photo Credit: Sanchez Santos)

AW2 Veteran Robert Murafsky shares his transition story publicly to inspire wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans and gain support for the AW2 community. (Photo Credit: Sanchez Santos)

Most people consider speaking about themselves a challenge, especially if it is to a crowd of people. Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) Veteran Robert Murafsky tackled this task in order to provide insights about thriving in today’s workforce as an AW2 Veteran.

“I knew I wanted to be a Soldier since I was a little kid watching the Army commercials on television,” said the Metuchen, N.J. native. “I thought when I joined the military, I would serve 20-plus years, retire, and spend the rest of my life fishing and falling asleep in my reclining chair.”

“However, my reality changed once I was wounded because I had to recover and refocus,” Murafsky added. “If it wasn’t for great programs like the Army Wounded Warrior Program, I wouldn’t have the job I have today working as an Army civilian.”

On August 28, 2006, while performing a search mission during a deployment in Hit, Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, an enemy sniper shot Murafsky in the face damaging his right eye.

“A few minutes into the search I felt an awful pain, heard a loud ringing, and everything started to go in slow motion,” Murafsky said. “I remember putting my hand to my face, pulling it back, and seeing lots of blood.”

He was taken to the Forward Operating Base for an initial assessment, then airlifted to a nearby base for surgery. After surgery, he was medically evacuated to Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Despite a catastrophic injury, Murafsky navigated through the rehabilitation process, transitioned out of the military in May 2007, and qualified for AW2.

AW2 supports Soldiers and their Families throughout their recovery and transition, even into Veteran status. This program, through the local support of AW2 Advocates, strives to foster the Soldier’s independence.

“I told my Advocate I was searching for a job, gave her my resume, and the next thing I know I’m being told to come in for an interview,” he said. “I have no idea what happened between giving her my resume and getting that phone call, but I know she had something to do with it.”

Murafsky currently works as a security specialist for the Department of the Army Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management.

“My first day working as an Army civilian was great because it kind of made me feel like I was back in the Army,” Murafsky said. “This job makes feel like I am helping out the Army.  It may be in a small way, but I consider myself part of the Army still.”

“This job has been great, and I feel like they didn’t hire me to check a box but to actually help a wounded warrior,” he added. “They put me in touch with programs to receive equipment that would help me with my disability and allow me to work in the best conditions possible.”

One program he finds particularly helpful is the DoD Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program (CAP).

CAP ensures that people with disabilities and wounded servicemembers have equal access to the information environment and opportunities in the Department of Defense and throughout the federal government.

“We provide the equipment to allow people like Robert equal access to everything,” said Kameelah Montgomery, acquisition team leader of CAP. “There’s technology out there for these Soldiers and Veterans.”

Some examples of technology available for those who are blind or have low vision include Braille displays and translators, large print keyboards, or a compact and portable version of a closed-circuit television.

“They can receive it free of charge while in uniform,” she added.  “It’s theirs to keep forever because we want them to go out and be successful.”

To learn more about how to hire a Veteran at your organization, including an online toolkit and educational video for hiring managers, visit the Warrior Transition Command at www.WTC.army.mil/employers or for information about CAP, visit http://www.cap.mil.

U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit Trains Army Warrior Games Athletes

By SSG Emily Anderson, WTC STRATCOM

SFC Tom Rose, assigned to the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, pictured left, teaches AW2 Veteran Justin Miller additional pistol techniques. Miller is competing in the Warrior Games shooting event on May 3.

The Army Warrior Games shooting team is capitalizing on its extra advantage — the United States Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU).

 “I think a lot of the athletes are going to do very well,” said SFC Janet Sokolowski, the USAMU platoon sergeant for the cross-functional pistol. “The training clinics they went to before the games were really helpful.”

 The USAMU is a world-class shooting team composed of Soldiers. They are considered the best of the best and have gained worldwide respect by winning hundreds of individual and team competitions, including World Championships and Olympic medals.

 “We’ve helped the Army shooting team every year for Warrior Games,” Sokolowski said. “It takes a lot of skill, but several of the athletes are open to learning.”

 “Matter of fact the team we have here has lots of experience and love doing this,” she said about the other members who are putting their experience to helping the Army Warrior Games shooting team to bring home gold.

 The Warrior Games shooting competition consists of athletes accurately using either a pistol or rifle to fire a series of shots at a stationary target during a timed session.

 “I’m learning a lot,” said AW2 Veteran Justin Miller. “With the help of CPL Rawlings (an USAMU Soldier) and the techniques he taught me about the rifle helped me to dial in and take better aim.”

 “This training has been very productive,” Miller said. “I’m learning holding drills for the pistol which helps to stabilize the muscles.”

 Shooting maybe the USAMU main area of expertise, but competing is not their only skill. These Soldiers assist in technical development of military small arms equipment and ammunition. They translate their competitive marksmanship skills into useful combat marksmanship.

 “Once you’ve conditioned yourself to shooting, it becomes 90% mental,” Sokolowski said. “We’re extremely goal oriented.”

Athletes Inspire Athletes

 By LTC Danny Dudek, WTC G-3 Operations
 

LTC Daniel Dudek, WTC G-3 Operations, applied to be on the 2012 Warrior Games Army swimming team. Dudek is one of more than 25 other wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans who participated in the swimming clinic to earn a spot on the Army's 2012 Warrior Games swimming team. Photo credit: SSG Emily Anderson

I’m finally here.  After many months of preparation and hard work, I’m finally seeing how big Warrior Games really is.  It didn’t hit until I was on the track today with members of the Army team going through their workouts.   Air Force team athletes were on the other side of the track with the same determination and seriousness of our team.  I feel differently than when I was younger.  Then I wanted to crush everyone not wearing my uniform, now I want everyone to do well and excel and enjoy second place right behind me.  I’m glad to see so many service members overcoming the adversities that brought them here. 

The track at the Air Force Academy is incredible.  Those that know me probably wonder what I’m comparing it to since I’ve always avoided track work, but in Colorado Springs you get that sense that you can’t get much closer to nature.  The air is dry and sun is just warm enough to let you can still enjoy the cool breeze.  It was clear today and easy to get lost into the zone of pushing that racing wheelchair around the track and forgetting about all the people around me.  Of course the air took its toll on my ability to push my lungs as hard as I did at the Fort Belvoir track in Virginia, but that’s why we’re here a little early –  training to get ourselves in the best position to win. 

The pool is also an impressive venue, with plenty of deck space and stands to accommodate as many as you can expect to want to watch swimming.  I was surprised to feel the thin air affect me in the water as well. 
 
As I look around at all of the Army athletes, I feel lucky to be among such incredible people.  If you’re reading this, you probably already know one… but there are forty nine other athletes just as talented and just as driven to excel.  I plan to do everything I can these next few weeks to show I can earn a place among them.  Go Army!

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Warriors in Transition can submit a blog by e-mailing WarriorCareCommunications [at] conus.army.mil.