Former Military Chef Hosts New Cooking Show, Out-Cooks Opponents on Food Network Show “Chopped”

By Jeff Johnson, AW2 Advocate

Sgt. Robbie Myers photo

AW2 Veteran Robbie Myers won first place on the Military Salute Edition of the Food Network Show “Chopped.”

U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) Veteran Sgt. 1st Class Robbie Myers puts his  military culinary skills to work as host of the new cooking show “Come and Get It,” a new series created to pay tribute to the men and women who have and are serving in the military.

“This show will be a Veteran run  television show, from cameramen to set designers, everyone will be Veterans,” said Myers, an Adams Center, N.Y. native. “The show will highlight Veterans because there are many out there who got out of the military for extenuating circumstances, but became successful business owners and valuable members of the community.”

Myers served two combat tours in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2009, where he was subject to combat stressors and the loss of fellow Soldiers while fighting in the Korengal Valley. He sustained post traumatic stress disorder from his wartime experiences and has had a long road to recovery and a great deal of support from his wife, Jamie, and his Family.

His wife, Jamie, said she is happy to see her husband doing so well after making it through many stressful times together. Jaime works for the Cerebral Palsy Association and as a substitute teacher for students with special needs in a local school district.

“She’s my brain and has always been there for me through my recovery at every step,” Myers said about his wife. “She is very supportive, standing by my side through everything.”

Earlier this year, Myers competed against military chefs from other services on the Military Salute Edition of the Food Network show “Chopped.” During the competition, he made appetizers, entrees and desserts within a limited amount of time with ingredients unknown beforehand by the contestants.

“I had just medically retired, and a friend sent me a link to apply,” said Myers, who worked in the food industry before joining the military and during his military career. “I figured why not apply, and I was selected.”

“I went in humble and didn’t expect to win. It was three rounds, with four competitors,” he added. “I was kind of sick and couldn’t smell or taste anything, so I was happy as long as I didn’t get eliminated first.”

Despite his illness, Myers won the competition after competing one-on-one against a Navy chef in the final round when he  created a “deconstructed sundae using pomegranates, pilot bread crackers, fruit chewy candy and dried carrots.”.

As the winner, he received a prize of $10,000 dollars, a significant achievement reflecting his strong skill in the culinary arts.

As his advocate, I have loads of respect for his courage, perseverance and strength in working his recovery and overcoming many challenges on the road to recovery. Myers has been very active in his recovery and has put his culinary interests and the support of his Family to the forefront in moving on with life after the military. His strength and perseverance are evident in all he does for himself and his Family, and he is an inspiration for others that you can realize your dreams and move on in your recovery.

Service Dog Provides Friendship and New Opportunities for an AW2 Soldier

AW2 Soldier Justin Miller’s service dog “Dinah” gave him the companionship and encouragement he needed to move forward with his recovery and transition.

Retired Army Sergeant and AW2 Soldier Justin Miller, who was injured on multiple occasions over the course of his military career, is a huge fan of companion dogs – specifically one called Dinah.

By Jeff Johnson, AW2 Advocate

While working to take charge of his life and deal with PTSD symptoms, he came in contact with Clear Path for Veterans, an organization in Chittenango, New York.  Clear Path’s Dogs2Vet program assists Veterans by matching them with a rescue dog.  They train the Veteran with the dog, creating a supportive bond that results in outstanding support to the Veteran and enhances their quality of life in the process. Following this training the dog is a service dog and the veteran gains the ability and confidence to deal with the many issues presented to them.

In the summer of 2012, Miller was paired with Dinah, a 3-year-old, rescue black Lab, who immediately provided him an emotional boost. Together, Miller and Dinah began the 18 month training program that Miller says not only enhanced his skills in working with Dinah but also helped him face life’s challenges. Though their training is not complete, Miller and Dinah have progressed to the final stages of training and expect an early graduation. Miller plans to continue the training to earn Therapy Dog qualification so Dinah could be used to help others and demonstrate the benefits of a service dog.

Other than the obvious, Dinah is trained to alert him when his anxiety rises – before he may even notice it.  When she hears the command ‘brace’ she helps support his body weight.  Miller shared that the biggest benefits for him are companionship and increased confidence – he is more at ease now and more comfortable socially.

Dinah accompanies Miller almost everywhere and will be joining him in college next semester. He is studying to become a recreational therapist with a goal to assist Veterans and others who have disabilities with adaptive needs.

Based on my experiences with Miller, it is evident that Clear Path for Veterans Dogs2Vets program has been a positive and instrumental factor in his ability to move on in his life and to put the pain of his injuries behind him.  He sees sharing his experiences as encouragement to other AW2 Soldiers who might benefit from a service dog, and he wants them to take the steps necessary to do what he did and enhance their life in a big way.

Clear Path for Veterans is a private, non for profit organization dedicated to helping military Veterans and their Families recover and reintegrate by offering a variety of support, training, vocational, and recreational programs in a rural setting of natural beauty. The organization offers many programs including outdoor activities, camping, vocational programs, and “talking circles” where Veterans can meet with each other and share their experiences and provide mutual support.


Thanks for A Dog Named “Ike” – An Opportunity for More Independence for AW2 Veteran Christopher Paiser

By Jeff Johnson, AW2 Advocate
As an AW2 Advocate, I work with many Soldiers who face significant challenges after sustaining physical and emotional combat injuries, and have the courage to face their challenges and improve their quality of life. One such individual is AW2 Veteran Christopher Paiser. Paiser epitomizes what courage and rising above anything that is thrown against you are all about. His experience also emphasizes that there are many good people in this world who will go out of their way to assist Veterans like Chris.

Paiser deployed to Iraq with the Army National Guard 2nd/108th Infantry out of Morrisonville, NY, as a fire-team leader with 17 years of experience. In 2004, he took his fire team to the Post Exchange (PX) on their day off.  The facility came under rocket fire. He was hit with shrapnel and severely damaged his right eye.

He was medevaced to Baghdad, where doctors removed the shrapnel and then transferred him to Military Treatment Facilities (MTF) in Germany and the United States. Despite a belief that his sight would return in at least one eye, he didn’t regain vision in either. This was, as one might imagine, a very tough time for Chris and his family.

In a recent Press Republican article, Paiser discussed the depression following his injury saying, “I didn’t want to get off the couch or out of bed, and my wife (Mary) would say, ‘You didn’t come home in a box. Move.'”   Paiser went to a rehab center for the blind in Connecticut and learned to use a mobility cane and through these experiences he “was regaining some independence.”

At this point, AW2 connected Paiser with Freedom Guide Dogs for the Blind, an AW2 Community Support Network organization that trains guide dogs for the blind, and Ike, a 2-year-old black Labrador. With this new addition to his Family , Paiser found an even greater sense of freedom and independence as Ike helped him find his way without relying on someone else’s guidance.

From my experience with Chris, it is clear that Freedom Guide Dogs for the Blind is a great resource to assist blind AW2 Veterans like Paiser with finding the courage and perseverance to rise above any challenge on their path to independence. With companions like Ike, Chris and other sight-impaired Veterans can enjoy more freedom to engage in outside activities with Family and community resources.

Paiser recently spoke at an American Legion Veterans Day remembrance ceremony and continues on his way to greater independence.

Keys to a New Future for AW2 Veteran Kevin Snow and Family

AW2 Veteran Kevin Snow and his Family receive a standing ovation and ceremonial keys to their new home before the Giants-Redskins game at MetLife stadium in New Jersey on December 19, 2012.

By Jeff Johnson, AW2 Advocate
As an AW2 Advocate, I am always humbled by the generosity of so many people who reach out to our AW2 Soldiers and Families in need, provide them with the resources to enhance their lives, and give them the opportunity for a better future in their path to independence.

One such Soldier and Family that received a great opportunity for a better future is AW2 Soldier Kevin Snow and his Family of five. On October 11, 2007, Snow, a Purple Heart recipient, was deployed with A Battery, 2nd of the 32nd Field Artillery, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division to Forward Operating Base (FOB) Liberty, Iraq. While deployed, his FOB was subjected to a mortar attack with rounds landing five meters away from Snow.  He sustained shrapnel injuries and subsequently suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI). The Snow Family has faced a myriad of challenges progressing through Snow’s recovery with PTSD and TBI. His Family was supporting him every step of the way through many hurdles and in-patient hospitalizations, especially his wife, Adrienne. The Snows have five children, including two special needs children, and were struggling to find an affordable house for their Family after leaving their last residence.

Mrs. Snow, while researching housing availability, contacted the Military Warriors Support Foundation (MWSF), of San Antonio, Texas, regarding their Homes 4 Wounded Heroes program. The program awards mortgage-free homes to wounded heroes injured during combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. The homes are targeted toward Families who have severe and/or unique circumstances due to their injuries received while serving our country. In addition to the home, the Families receive three years of Family and financial mentoring. After several interviews with the MWSF, the Snow Family was approved for a mortgage-free home located in Atlantic County, New Jersey, donated by Chase Bank, at no expense to the Family. Snow said that the entire process took about four months. This was just the beginning. More was to come for Snow and his Family.

On December 19, Snow and his Family’s service was recognized at an NFL football game between the New York Giants and the Washington Redskins at MetLife Stadium, in New Jersey, courtesy of the MWSF. The foundation also provided travel and hotel accommodations for Snow and his Family.  During the game, the Family received ceremonial keys for their new home, a standing ovation from the crowd, and a meet and greet with many of the NFL officials and sponsors present at the game. Snow commented to me “it’s great what ordinary Americans do in stepping up to assist wounded Soldiers like me, and I am so thankful to them.”

The Family is of course very excited about the new move. The Snow Family will be moving into their new home in Egg Harbor Township, Atlantic County, New Jersey, in the February or March time frame in 2012.   They are looking forward to having a permanent home big enough for their large Family and the stability and peace of mind that brings. The Snow’s are also receiving support from other Veterans who are providing resources to cover their moving expenses, a real plus for a large Family  and again, showing the generosity of so many to our AW2 Families.  Snow, in talking about the experience, stated that “we were in a dire situation, had nowhere to turn and this organization opened up the door and gave us a new start which I am very thankful for.” Snow has attended many AW2 outreach activities and has spoken to groups on behalf of other AW2 Soldiers.

AW2 Soldiers who may be interested in looking at the programs provided by the Military Warriors Support Foundation can go to their web page at

AW2 Advocate Meets with Nebraska Lieutenant Governor to Discuss Community Support for Wounded Warriors

By AW2 Advocate Bill Duerr
AW2 Advocates have a significant role in ensuring that their community is well aware of the fact that there are AW2 Soldiers, Veterans, and Families living right next to them, -going to the same grocery stores and attending the same schools and places of worship. The most significant issue is that we as a community have been given the opportunity and the privilege to be part of their healing process.

AW2 Advocates also have a significant role in ensuring that state and local governments understand that AW2 Soldiers, Veterans, and Families need our care and support.  They must understand their role in leading our communities in care and support of our AW2 Soldiers, Veterans, and Families and are instrumental in helping them achieve their goal of independence.

I feel honored to have been given the duty to serve Nebraska AW2 Soldiers, Veterans, and Families as their AW2 Advocate by reaching out to community leaders. On December 20, 2011, I traveled to the Nebraska State Capital Building in Lincoln to meet one-on-one with Lt. Gov.  Rick Sheehy.  During our 30 minute visit, I shared with him a general overview of AW2.  I also shared the many difficult challenges Nebraska AW2 Soldiers, Veterans, and Families courageously face every single day.

I told him I feel very fortunate to be a part of the great Husker State, and  I shared that there are many ongoing efforts in Nebraska of which I am personally aware to help our Nebraska Soldiers, Veterans, and Families in the areas of healthcare, employment, education, and legal assistance, just to name a few.

I found Lt. Gov. Sheehy to be a warm, caring individual who has supported our Soldiers, Veterans, and Families in the past and will continue to be a support for them in the future. He was elected by the nation’s Lieutenant Governors to lead the National Lieutenant Governors Association (NLGA) as the Associate Chairman of the NLGA.   I spoke with the Governor about this national role and the importance of AW2 to all lieutenant governors) Lt. Gov. Sheehy responded  by telling me about the upcoming NLGA in D.C. and that they have presenters come speak about issues that pertain to all the lieutenant governors.  He said he will keep in contact with me about the upcoming Lieutenant Governors Conference, and I look forward to learning more about how he and all of these public officials continue to support the AW2 population.

AW2 Veteran Helps Honor Arizona’s Fallen Heroes

By Chris Lewandowski, AW2 Advocate

AW2 Veteran Brian Radke participated in the rededication ceremony for Arizona’s Enduring Freedom Memorial on October 29.

Retired SGT Brian Radke, AW2 Veteran, put on his Class A uniform and headed down to the Arizona State Capitol on October 29. Radke volunteered to assist with the rededication ceremony of Arizona’s Enduring Freedom Memorial. The memorial is a tribute to the men and women from Arizona who lost their lives serving our country, and Radke was more than willing to be a part of it. Radke lead the audience in the pledge of allegiance and concluded the ceremony by raising the flag atop the memorial. To him, it was important to just be there.

Radke was injured in October, 2005 on a stretch of highway near Camp Victory in Western Baghdad. He was manning the gun turret of his Humvee when a roadside improvised explosive device blew up the vehicle. The force of the explosion caused Radke to have a stroke and his heart stopped twice. It took eight doctors and 12 hours to stabilize Radke’s shrapnel-ridden body so that he could be transported to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.

Retired SGT Brian Radke and other servicemembers proudly saluted the flag during the rededication ceremony.

He was badly burned, suffered a fractured jaw, a punctured lung, his carotid artery was severed, his arm was broken in four places, and he lost his right index finger. Over the next 26 months he would endure 71 surgeries. Today Radke still has 5 pieces of shrapnel in his brain. More importantly, he still helps.

Radke says he enjoys participating in events like the one in Arizona. In 2006, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) pinned on his Purple Heart during a ceremony at the nation’s Capitol. Earlier this year, Radke served as a grand marshal for the annual Parade of Bands in his hometown of Hazel Dell, Washington. When asked how he felt about participating in these events and the re-dedication of the Arizona Enduring Freedom Memorial ceremony, he stated simply “I’m humbled.”

Radke lives in San Tan Valley Arizona. He is currently enrolled in the Veterans Upward Bound program at Arizona State University where he plans to earn his degree in education.

Educating and Informing Others on AW2 through Hockey

By Stephen Lew, AW2 Advocate

AW2 Advocate Stephen Lew spread the word about AW2 with his local community during the annual Lebanon Valley College vs. Navy Hockey Game during the Military Appreciation Night at Hershey Park Arena on October 28, 2011.

The Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) Advocates often attend events to support AW2 Soldiers, Veterans, and Families and to educate others on the support that AW2 provides for them. I was fortunate to not only be invited, but provide AW2 information and material to attendees during the second annual Military Appreciation Night at the Hershey Park Arena in Hershey, PA.

The night consisted of the Lebanon Valley College (Dutchmen) ice hockey team playing against the Naval Academy team. During the event last year, the Hershey Park Arena hosted the event as a fundraiser for wounded warriors through a nonprofit organization.

As I stood at my AW2 table, the general public came to my display and asked what the difference was between last year’s nonprofit organization and AW2. My response –AW2 is the Army lead and designed by the Soldier for the Soldier. AW2 works inside the network of Army, government, and local and national resources to help Soldiers, Veterans, and their Families resolve many issues. Wounded warriors may apply for a wide array of benefits in order to help them recover physically, prepare financially, and build their skills for a rewarding career. AW2 Advocates, like me, ensure that AW2 Soldiers, Veterans, and their Families are connected with these benefits and services, which span:

  • Career and education
  • Insurance
  • Finance
  • Retirement and transition
  • Healthcare
  • Services for Families
  • Human resources

It was a great opportunity to inform and educate numerous Veterans and non-Veterans about AW2. In the end, The Naval Academy rolled over the Dutchmen by 3 to 2, final score.

Thank you to the Lebanon Valley College ice hockey team head coach, Don Parsons, and assistant coach, John Denver, for connecting the U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Program with this opportunity—and future opportunities—to help members of the community learn more about the Army’s support for wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers, Veterans, and their Families.


AW2 Veteran’s Rehabilitation Is Definitely “On Par”

By Chris Lewandowski, AW2 Advocate

To say it has been a busy couple of weeks for AW2 Veteran retired CPL Chad Pfeifer, would be an understatement. One week after winning the 2011 National Amputee Golf Championship, Pfeifer made his way to Irving, Texas, where he won the Inaugural Bush Center Warrior Open. The Warrior Open was sponsored by the George W. Bush Presidential Center and is part of the center’s Military Service Initiative, a program designed to showcase the importance of sports in the rehabilitation of wounded, ill, and injured servicemembers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

AW2 Veteran Chad Pfeifer received the Inaugural Bush Center Warrior Open championship trophy from former President George W. Bush.

Pfeifer competed against 20wounded warriors, ultimately winning the 36-hole event by nine strokes. Seven of the 20 wounded warriors participating were graduates of the Salute Military Golf Association’s program coached by PGA professional Jim Estes. After receiving the championship trophy from the former president, Pfeifer dedicated his win to “all of our brothers and sisters who paid the ultimate sacrifice.”

Pfeifer suffered an above the knee amputation of his left leg after the vehicle he was in rolled over a pressure-plate- activated improvised explosive device (IED) outside Baghdad, Iraq, in April 2007. After more than a year in recovery, Pfeifer took up golf as a form of physical therapy.  While attached to the Warrior Transition Unit (WTU) at Fort Sam Houston, Pfeifer was allowed to hit balls and golf for free. “I just fell in love with it,” says Pfeifer.

AW2 Veteran Chad Pfeifer wins the 2011 Inaugural Bush Center Warrior Open in Irving, TX.

Three years after his injury, he finished fourth in the 2010 National Amputee Golf Championship, and immediately set a new goal. “My goal was to win it,” said Pfeifer. However, winning the Warrior Open wasn’t as easy as he made it appear. “It was a little nerve-wracking with President Bush watching a lot of my tee shots,” Pfeifer said.

A Life Remembered

By Ken Garot, AW2 Advocate

AW2 Veteran Bob Briggs and his wife, Michelle. Bob passed away on June 28, 2011 due to medical complications as a result of the injuries he sustained in Iraq in 2005.

On April 16, 2005, three days after returning to Iraq from spending time with his Family in Iowa, SGT Bob Briggs was taking a break with several Soldiers waiting for the remainder of his unit to move to their location in Ramadi. With no warning of incoming fire, 110 mm mortars struck their position. Five Soldiers were killed instantly and many were injured. Bob was only ten feet from where one mortar struck, and the impact almost took Bob’s life and the lives of two Soldiers standing nearby.

After his emergency surgeries in Iraq, Bob was airlifted to Germany for intensive treatment for a severe head injury. He was brought back to life three times as the medical team worked frantically to stabilize his condition. After rehabilitation at Walter Reed, Bob returned to Iowa where these traumatic events would change not only his life, but that of his wife Michelle and their two children, Ashlea and Cody.

As a result of his injuries, Bob developed left side hemiplegia , or total paralysis of the arm, leg, and trunk on the same side of the body, that required extensive and ongoing physical and occupational therapy.  Over the years, he would have his own dog, Pock, trained as a service dog to help him move without injuring himself. Bob remained active in many outdoor activities and events including bike riding and golf.

Bob and Michelle became deeply involved in Veteran’s Service Organizations throughout Iowa and the nation, and they were instrumental in the development and passage of an Iowa Grant Program worth up to $10,000 for Iowa wounded warriors medically evacuated out of the war zone. They were also the ground breakers for the English River Outfitters, an organization dedicated to providing all Veterans a place to relax and take time out to enjoy the outdoors in a safe and pleasant environment, free of charge.  More recently, Michelle traveled back and forth to Washington where she served on a panel of Veteran Family members giving input into the VA Caretaker program that was passed into law and implemented in early April 2011.

Bob passed away on June 28 at the age of 42 from medical complications related to the injuries he sustained in Iraq that fateful day in 2005. His sudden and unexpected death shocked and saddened all who loved him and created a deep sense of loss to a larger community who came to know and admire the work he had done on behalf of Veterans like himself. Bob’s life exemplified the phrase “selfless service” so others might give hope to those who sacrifice to serve their country. Despite his medical struggles, he proved that one person can make a difference.  His work will now go on through the efforts of Michelle and countless others who strive to make life better for those who gave so much.


Helping Hollywood Tell the Wounded Warrior Story

By Kathreyn Harris, AW2 Advocate and Spouse

AW2 Advocate Kathreyn Harris and her husband, AW2 Veteran Shilo Harris at the Joining Forces panel discussion in Los Angeles, CA.

Editor’s Note: AW2 Advocate Kathreyn Harris and her husband, AW2 Veteran Shilo Harris participated in a panel discussion as part of first lady Michelle Obama’s Joining Forces campaign to inform the Hollywood community on ways it can help communicate to US citizens the experiences of military Families during and after war.

I never thought my voice would represent so many amazing people. I have the opportunity daily to help on a one-on-one basis. This trip to Los Angeles for the first lady’s Joining Forces campaign event, however, gave my husband Shilo and me a chance to show our country what our wounded warrior population is made of.

We brought awareness to a larger population. We, as Families of wounded warriors, experienced the stares and snickers. Hopefully by talking to members from the Hollywood guilds we were able to open the door to awareness about what we went through.

We talked about the firsthand adversity we face and how we overcome it. We talked about many of our friends that face these challenges as well. We shared some of our personal experiences—and explained how they are not always pretty, but are necessary. We spoke about the heartache that the public seldom sees.

We talked about our children and how they had to grow up. One of the speakers spoke about how there are so many kids in our country that have no idea what their freedom costs another child. I could see as we talked about our kids and their pain, how so many people in the audience could never dream of it.

The fact that so many Families are ripped apart emotionally is something few know about. These Families may still live in the same home and carry on day to day, but they are separated because of so many reasons. This is something we as wounded warrior Families know about—maybe not firsthand, but through a friend.

With the help of the Joining Forces campaign, I hope the appreciation and awareness we feel in the city of San Antonio, will be felt throughout the nation. I know the Hollywood guilds will be able to bring this awareness into the homes of so many who might not otherwise ever gain an understanding. I also know I talked about the heartbreak and heartache, but that there are so many stories of excitement and happiness to share also.

There is amazing strength and resilience that not only the warriors express, but their spouses and children as well. Our stories need to be told, so that others will know why they are able to carry on with their lives without interruption.


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