Stress Less Heal More Reduces Stress by Negotiating Bills for Wounded Warriors

By WTC Stratcom
Editor’s Note: Stress Less Heal More is a participant in the AW2 Community Support Network.

Stress Less Heal More (SLHM) was founded in 2009 in San Diego, CA, by Julie Kalb after going through cancer treatment. As a single mother on a limited income, she quickly realized that negotiating her bills would be the key to her financial survival. Now Julie and two assistants help others through their own medical billing challenges.

Since its inception, SLMH has been negotiating household expenses such as utilities, phone, cable, rent, credit card debt, car payments, and hospital bills for anyone with a life threatening health condition.

While SLHM initially focused on cancer, brain injury, Parkinson’s disease, and other serious health conditions, they are now offering their services to active military personnel and Veterans across the United States. Cases can easily be handled in person, by mail, phone, and email. At first while they are only staffed to handle the bill negotiation for five individuals at a time, eventually they are planning to increase the number Soldiers and Veterans they can help.

To get started, the wounded warrior or Veteran can contact SLHM at, and they will send a form that will enable them to negotiate bills on your behalf. For more information, visit

Do you know of a caring organization that wants to assist wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers, Veterans, and their Families? If so, please email me at the AW2 Community Support Network at the email address below. I welcome your recommendations and referrals. Send organization referrals to

Welcome to the AW2 Community Support Network

By SSG Emily Anderson, WTC Stratcom

Join me in welcoming the newest organizations in the AW2 Community Support Network. These organizations are part of the 252 AW2 Community Support Network organizations that help better the lives of AW2 Soldiers, Veterans, and their Families. Click on the links below to get to know them.

The AW2 Community Support Network was created based on direct requests from severely wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers, Veterans, and Families. Wounded Soldiers stated that connection with their local community and community leaders was essential for their success and reintegration. For more information, please visit the AW2 Community Support Network webpage.

Do you know of a caring organization that wants to assist wounded, injured, and ill Soldiers, Veterans and their Families? If so, please email the AW2 Community Support Network at the below email address. I welcome your recommendations and referrals.

Send organization referrals to

It is From the Heart

By Patricia C. Sands, WTC Stratcom

Twenty-five organizations convened at the Community Support Exhibit Hall at the 2011 AW2 Symposium to share information about their local support to wounded warriors and their Families.

Twenty-five organizations stood up to be part of the Community Support Exhibit Hall at the 2011 Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) Symposium, and more wanted to attend. It’s a very heartfelt gesture when one considers the commitment in time and resources it takes to attend. However, this was not business as usual.

When companies and organizations attend events they have a goal in mind, usually to make money and expand their market. However, these 25 organizations are not at the 2011 AW2 Symposium to make money. Their goal is to see how they can serve our wounded warriors and their Families more effectively. They want to meet the community and the leaders of the Warrior Transition Command and AW2. They want to get the word out that they are here to help and support wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers, Veterans, and their Families.

When reviewing the list of participating organizations below, please remember that their services and products are either free or are covered by insurance. Their efforts are from the heart.

Who are these generous organizations? They are as varied as the individual needs of the Soldiers, Veterans, and Families they support. They also run the gambit of expertise that cover each of the lifecycles that a wounded warrior works through. In addition, many are members of the AW2 Community Support Network, a group of organizations that are needed and vital to the AW2 Soldier, Veteran, and Family as they recover and assimilate back into the community.

I encourage wounded warriors and their Families to click the links below and get to know them.

It doesn’t end with giving wounded warriors and their Families a link to each organization’s website. They will know more about each of these organizations as we follow them through the next year. We will detail their stories through articles and blogs. The more wounded warriors and their Families know, the more they can help. It is all about networking and communicating.

Maybe you, as a wounded warrior or Family member, will be the vital link to refer a resource to the AW2 Community Support Network. Maybe you will be the one to connect another wounded warrior to a much needed resource. The Army cannot do it all. It takes the whole community to work together to make a difference.

Identify Your Pooh Bear

By Alan Morales, WTC Stratcom

AW2 Symposium delegates and caregivers (left to right) Michelle Ash and Jamie Anderson participated in the caregiver resiliency training.

Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind.
“Pooh!” he whispered.
“Yes, Piglet?”
“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s paw.
“I just wanted to be sure of you.”—Winnie the Pooh, A.A. Milne

I was sitting in the back of the room when this quote was shared with Family member and caregiver delegates at the 2011 AW2 Symposium caregiver resiliency training on Sunday. After reading the quote on the projection screen, I grinned and reflected on the warm feeling I got when I read Winnie the Pooh as a child. Around the room, many caregivers also smiled while others looked puzzled as if they asked themselves, “What does Winnie the Pooh have to do with resiliency?”

The training, taken from the Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Program, mentioned this quote to illustrate an important aspect of resiliency—trust. Resiliency trainer and AW2 staff member Venus Bradley explained that everyone’s life is based on relationships. More importantly, people’s lives are strengthened by those people they trust the most. Whether that person is a Soldier, mother, friend, or coworker, there is someone in each person’s life that they trust.

“Who is your Pooh?” asked Bradley.

Many of the participants laughed in the room, myself included, when Bradley asked this question. But she hit on a point that lingered in my mind. Sometimes individuals don’t turn to their trusted loved ones when they are faced with challenges. Instead, they keep the problem close to their chest and try to solve their problems alone. This is particularly the case when the challenge is with a spouse.

The training intended to demonstrate that in times of trouble, one needs to be mindful of the “Poohs” in their lives. These trusted individuals are often the ones that can help identify the facts of the situation, find the positive, and develop a solution. Sometimes, they are a spouse and other times it might be a friend or a relative. Each situation calls for a different approach, and those you trust are often the ones who can help you figure out which approach is best.

I learned quite a bit from Bradley yesterday afternoon. I learned that self-awareness about relationships can be a powerful tool and that identifying the people you trust ahead of time can be helpful when you least expect it. I walked out of that room realizing that it’s okay to lean on someone else for help in times of trouble and I think most of the delegates did too. We weren’t meant to live life alone, and often the “Poohs” in our lives are the people who make us stronger.

TGIT!—Thank Goodness it’s Thursday Meditation Hour

By Patricia Sands, WTC Stratcom

Editor’s Note: Warriors at Ease is a participant in the AW2 Community Support Network.

Thank Goodness it’s Thursday Meditation Hour is launching for Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) spouses and caregivers.

This teleconference meditation hour is a regularly scheduled event that assists spouses and caregivers to relieve stress and to find new coping skills. The teleconference call is scheduled for the last Thursday of every month and will be first held tomorrow, Thursday, May 26, at 1:00 p.m. EDT.

Robin Carnes, founder of AW2 Community Support Network Member Warriors at Ease, will lead the meditation using iRest techniques. These easy-to-learn meditation techniques are taught by Carnes at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and have proven to be successful. For example, after using these techniques, her students report the ability to sleep more soundly, a decrease in pain, and a general increase in peace of mind in daily life.

If you are an AW2 spouse or caregiver who would benefit from stress reduction, please email the AW2 Community Support Network to reserve your spot for tomorrow’s call at


Building the AW2 Community on Facebook Starts With You

By Jim Wenzel, WTC Stratcom

The AW2 Facebook page is a source of timely and accurate information for the Army’s severely wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers, Veterans, and their Families.

Members of the AW2 community receive information a variety of ways, such as the AW2 blog, Warrior Transition Command website, or straight from their AW2 Advocate. For the 560 or so people who have already “liked” the AW2 Facebook page, these individuals are getting their information right alongside their updates from friends and Family on Facebook.

As AW2’s presence on Facebook has grown over the past two months, we’ve gotten a number of questions from AW2 Soldiers, Veterans, Family members, and Advocates about security and privacy.

  • Can someone who sees me post on the AW2 Facebook page click on my name and see my location?
  • Will people on the AW2 Facebook page be able to look through my photos without my knowledge?
  • Will AW2 Headquarters be able to see what I post on my Facebook wall?

These are all great questions and it’s important that all AW2 Facebook users understand the key answer to all of these questions: Yes or no, depending on your privacy settings. Everyone has a right to as much or as little privacy as they want while using Facebook.  Some users want everyone to see everything, while others (like me) desire that only their chosen friends be able to look at their posted content.

If you haven’t been to the privacy settings page of your Facebook profile, then it is time for your to take a look right now.  Click on the “Account” link in the upper right hand corner of your Facebook page and on the drop down menu, click the “Privacy Settings” link.  This will take you to a page that lists various options that help you control how you connect to, share with, and block other Facebook users.

Personally most of my “Sharing on Facebook” settings are set to “Friends Only” because I don’t want some of the 250,000 individuals on Facebook to gain access to my address, pictures of my children, personal biographical information, place of work, or status updates. By managing my settings in this way, everyone can see me “like” the AW2 page without being able to see any of the private information I don’t want to share. Even the other AW2 Facebook moderators cannot see my personal Facebook profile because of the settings I control. As you can imagine, this feature comes in handy when you become a fan of your place of employment or just in general when surfing on Facebook.  You can learn more about social media best practices by reviewing the U.S. Army Warrior Transition Command’s Online Social Media Training.

Privacy and security are a concern we must all take seriously by scrolling through our privacy settings and fixing any discrepancies. Once the appropriate settings are in place, users can confidently navigate to organizational pages with far less risk of losing desired privacy.

AW2 has a powerful story to tell about Soldiers, Veterans, and Families who have shared in the sacrifice of both the call to duty and the suffering of severe wounds, illnesses, and injuries.  Daily program updates and information are posted on the wall of our Facebook page and the reach of our message continues to grow with the number of individuals who like the AW2 Facebook page. Help us advocate for the program by sharing the AW2 Facebook page with other AW2 Soldiers, Veterans, Families, and friends. You can help give a stronger voice to AW2 by being a part of the conversation.

The USO’s Selfless Leadership

By COL Greg Gadson, AW2 Director

While speaking at the 2011 USO Leadership Conference, AW2 Director COL Greg Gadson spoke with AW2 Veteran Justin Widhalm who is now a USO Wounded Warrior Programs Manager at Fort Carson in Colorado.

Throughout my 20 year military career, I have been around the world in all kinds of conditions. As my surroundings changed, there always seemed to be one constant, even in Iraq—the USO. They were always where the Soldiers were at just the right time, with just the right thing. We knew we could count on them to help make things a little bit better.

It was this type of selfless leadership that I was proud to be able to recognize today as I spoke at the 2011 USO Leadership Conference. As I looked out at the nearly 100 USO leaders, I saw several faces I knew from my service and recovery. I was grateful to be able to thank them not only personally, but also for all the servicemembers and Families they support around the world.

While many people know about the USO, they might not realize that the USO expanded its focus to include wounded warriors and their Families. When I was recovering at Walter Reed, there was always someone at my door from the USO checking in on me, offering unconditional support—doing whatever it took to help. This type of community support is an incredibly important part of the re-integration process, and it makes all the difference when our wounded, ill, or injured Soldiers return home to their civilian communities. The USO is also part of the AW2 Community Support Network–working alongside other organizations around the country to support the long-term success of our wounded warriors.

Jack Flanagan, USO Senior Vice President of Operations, described his volunteers as a “goodness delivery team.” What a true statement. One AW2 Advocate told me her USO rep was, “Seamless. If I need help with one of my wounded Soldiers she’s who I call first—if she can’t help, she automatically finds the right person who can.” The Advocate added, “The USO never misses a beat.”

At the end of the day, it is about us all working together to provide the dignity and respect our wounded, ill, and injured servicemembers, Veterans, and their Families deserve. I appreciate the USO’s good work, and I challenge other community organizations to do what the USO does. Put the Soldier first.

Job Fairs Geared for Wounded Warriors

By Lisa Gallup, AW2 Advocate

(left to right) AW2 Soldier SGT Terry Mustapher and AW2 Advocate Lisa Gallup discuss the Wounded Warrior Job Fair in Killeen, TX.

Recently, I attended a Wounded Warrior Job Fair in Killeen, TX, that had a two hour time frame allotted just for wounded warriors and the remainder of the day was open for Veterans and Family members. The fair included employers looking for employees with military-specific experience and skills.

AW2 Soldier SGT Terry Mustapher, who is currently transitioning out of the Army, attended the job fair, looking for a job in the Killeen area. Mustapher stated that he liked this particular job fair because it was geared towards wounded Soldiers and Veterans. He networked with representatives from educational institutions and Veterans Affairs and learned some job fair best practices.

“Job fair attendees need plenty of résumés and business cards to pass out to the organizations,” said Mustapher. He also suggested wounded warriors in a Warrior Transition Unit work with the Army Career and Alumni Program (ACAP).  “This service is available when a Soldier is medically retired, but it is better to take advantage while on active duty.”

JobZone sponsored this event and has other job fairs coming up throughout the United States with several geared towards wounded warriors in California, Washington, Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia. JobZone representatives travel around the country to help wounded warriors and Veterans find jobs. JobZone lists these helpful best practices for job fairs on their website:

  • Visit the job fair website and pre-register if possible
  • Visit the job fair website prior to attending the event to view the listing of participating companies, company websites, and job descriptions
  • Be prepared to sell your skills
  • Bring plenty of résumés for networking
  • Dress professionally

Thanks to JobZone and other organizations that support Soldiers and Veterans in their job seeking efforts and for the opportunity to speak with the community about AW2 and our mission to assist AW2 Soldiers, Veterans, and their Families.

A Wounded Warrior’s Pixie Dust

By Emily Oehler, WTC Stratcom

Throughout my life there have been key people, that when I met them, I knew it was something special. I’m not talking about celebrities or those with political power. I’m talking about someone who centers you, makes you realize there are greater things in this life, and makes you a better person for knowing them.  Really special people. When I have met these rare people, I was instantly struck to my core—an indelible mark I would forever carry. I would say it was like a lightening strike, but for me, it’s been more like a feeling of being sprinkled with the joy of pixie dust. Magical.

Two years ago I met one such person and his wife—they both gave me a dash of pixie dust—retired SSG Shilo and Kathreyn Harris. On the flight home after meeting them at a work conference, I wrote Shilo and told him he was one of the most beautiful people I had met and that his strength, humor, compassion, and faith were inspiring. Since meeting the Harrises, I’ve had the honor of interviewing them a few times for work with the Warrior Transition Command (WTC) and the Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2).  During my last visit, they each sat down with me for separate three hour interviews to share the nooks and crannies of their life since Shilo was severely injured in Iraq. They shared their story in hopes of helping others cope with similar life-changing events. The newly finished 30-minute video is a compelling look at service, marriage, compassion, fortitude, faith, loss, hope and love. 

Warriors in Transition:  A Story of Resiliency demonstrates true strength of character:   

  • On February, 19, 2007, during his second deployment to Iraq, the vehicle SSG Harris was traveling in was struck by an improvised explosive device (IED), killing three Soldiers, wounding the driver, and leaving SSG Harris with third degree burns on 35% of his body. Due to the severity of his burns, SSG Harris lost his ears, tip of his nose, three fingers, and he sustained fractures to his left collar bone and C-7 vertebrae. Shilo told me, “You know when I’m talking to Soldiers I try to tell them you have to look at everything that God gives you as a gift. It may not always be the gift that you want, but you have to take what you get sometimes and turn it into something else. And that’s kind of what I’ve done.” Since retiring, Shilo has become an Outreach Coordinator for the Wounded Warrior Project. 
  • So that Shilo could recover at home, Kathreyn became his primary caregiver spending up to six hours a day on his wound care.  Additionally, she was mom to their daughter and stepmom to his three sons (and now a newborn baby!).  During his recovery, she became an Advocate for the Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) to support other wounded warriors at Brooke Army Medical Center.  Kathreyn shared with me that, “The situation that we’ve been put in, it would have been just as easy to let it guide our life into a negative  and into turmoil—and all the negative things that you can imagine but we’ve taken what happened to Shilo and we’ve turned it into a very positive thing.”

I don’t want to share too much and spoil watching the video, but I do hope you take time to watch them share their story—it’s not unlike many of the stories I’ve heard over the past four years shared by some of the 8,000 severely wounded Soldiers and Veterans I have had the honor of meeting. The Harrises’ story will feed your soul, inspire your heart, and captivate your mind. 

And, watch out for their pixie dust!

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