Boundaries

By Diana Hume, AW2 Reserve Spouse

Diana Hume analyzes boundaries in her life to ensure they are adjusted to help her live a better life.

Editor’s Note: Diana Hume is a feature blogger for AW2 and shares her experiences as the wife of a severely wounded reservist. The expressed comments and views of guest bloggers do not reflect the views of WTC or the United States Army.

Boundaries are an interesting topic, especially for wounded warrior Families. As we are well aware, many times war begins because of boundary disputes. Once on the battlefield, warriors do not see boundaries, they do what is necessary in order to survive and protect. However, once war is over and the dust settles, the wounds of war dramatically begin to change our once familiar boundaries.

The pain of war’s wounds so easily takes away the familiar which is not a huge news flash for those who live with them every day. In a blink of an eye, our boundaries begin to morph into something foreign right under our noses. Our world becomes smaller and everyday normal things change and often disappear. As each day begins in this new place, all that is in our thoughts is to get through it, just make it to the next day. The unknown about what life will be the next day is many times fueled by fear and over time, reality sets in and confirms that our new boundaries stopped the healing.

As I write this, I am learning what I need to do with my new foreign boundaries. First, I need to dig inside and hope I uncover anything that reminds me of the freedom without boundaries. What it was like before the pain became part of daily life—life before the wounds. I am realizing that mine were broad, open, and a guide to live, as opposed to what they were after the wounds—concrete road blocks.

I am learning the importance of understanding how I decide to redefine and re-open my boundaries. I am beginning to accept that this is necessary and is what I need to help me grow and heal. My priorities are to do all that is in my power to help my Family thrive. There are no excuses to stop living because the new boundaries slowly become comfortable or—to state bluntly—become a protective shell. Unfortunately, when I look in the mirror my shell is very visible, but I am beginning to believe that it will be broken with hope and trust.

We seem to think that boundaries define us. I disagree. I am learning that they can guide us, strengthen us and give us hope. Our boundaries can be molded like clay as we grow and become more of an expression of ourselves and not a blunt definition. Remember, it is o.k. to continuously re-evaluate or even erase some of your defined personal boundaries. I found that when you do, you are suddenly out of your comfort zone and you push yourself to improve and heal. It is an awakening when you accept that boundaries from war do not always protect, but hinder us from living.

It all goes back to choice. As a wounded warrior spouse it took me a lot of time to realize that I need to evaluate my boundaries every single day. Taking time for just me is good because it allows me to breathe. So, I encourage spouses and caregivers to take the time to write down what your boundaries are as you see them today. Think about what you just put on paper and how they were created. Are they closed, hard, or comfortable? Do you think they will protect you from hurting again? Were they created for you or by you? Do they allow you to live or just survive? Are any of them inclusive of a something you admire in yourself? If any of them keep you afraid to live and feel again, it is time to find the strength to soften them so you can breathe, feel, and take care of yourself. Remember, you are worth it!

 

Eagles Summit Ranch Offers Healing for WTB Soldiers

By SPC Roxanne M. Nance, Fort Carson Medical Department Activity Public Affairs

Founder and Vietnam Veteran Dave Roever, takes a moment to speak about the milestones these Soldiers reached in their journey to recovery while at the ranch.

Troubled by what most had seen at war and recovering from their injuries, 11 Fort Carson Warrior Transition Battalion (WTB) Soldiers found refuge and solace last month in the mountains of Colorado.

Nestled in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, just minutes away from the small town of Westcliffe, is Eagles Summit Ranch.

The ranch was established by Vietnam War Veteran Dave Roever and associates in September 2004 and serves to help wounded warriors with their recovery. The Tragedy to Triumph Certificate Program offered there helps Soldiers focus on the possibilities their futures hold.

The WTB Soldiers had vague expectations as they began their week at the Ranch. All expected a good time with plenty of relaxation, but each received so much more.

“Initially I expected to get teaching on coping skills,” said PFC Kyle A. Bookout. “But after four days I received inspiration and hope about life, that I can still achieve my goals and build a better future.”

The recovery program focuses on helping the Soldiers gain the confidence to tell their personal stories in a group setting. A series of four classes teaches the participants the fundamentals of public speaking; meanwhile emotional healing is taking place.

“There is something very real and medicinal about sharing your personal tragedies with others,” said Eagles Summit Ranch Academic Dean Matt Roever.

The program theorizes that by having Soldiers release their traumatic experiences through public speaking, they once again are able to focus on their futures.

Concentrating on an optimistic future enables people to overcome many of life’s unfortunate events. “No other organization does what we do for the Soldiers; what we have here works,” said Dave Roever.

The training sessions were held in the mornings, typically ending just as lunch was served. Throughout mealtimes the Soldiers enjoyed each other’s camaraderie and laughter. By early afternoon they participated in numerous activities including bowling, touring a nearby attraction, and horseback and all-terrain vehicle riding. These activities allowed the Soldiers to experience the beauty around them and enjoy the company of townspeople.

“This place is a place of healing,” said WTB cadre member SSG Andrew S. Peery. “The people here genuinely care about you… It’s like having Family when you’re so far from home.”

Peery attended the program twice, once as a wounded warrior.

“Like everyone else, at first I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived at the ranch. But by the end of the week I was able to finally open up—after 10 years—about the things I had seen and gone through as a sniper; I returned home a calmer man,” said Peery.

Because of his positive experience, he eagerly volunteered to return for this trip and guide more Soldiers through the process.

At the end of the five-day program, the Soldiers presented their emotion packed, personal stories to their fellow participants, WTB and ranch cadre, and residents of Westcliffe during a potluck, barbecue dinner. Tears traced down many cheeks as wounded souls mended.

“It is a very emotional thing,” said WTB cadre member MSG John J. Brinkman, of the weeklong program. “I don’t consider myself an emotional guy, but I was touched hearing what the Soldiers went through.”

By the end of the program, those who came to the ranch with apprehension were amazed at the transformation within themselves.

“This week helped me dissect my life,” reflected SPC Daniel R. Updike. “I’ve learned that I can speak to people about [my circumstances]. This trip came at the right time in my life. It helped me confirm that it’s alright to be emotional. It feels good.”

For these WTB Soldiers the Eagles Summit Ranch and its Tragedy to Triumph Certificate Program was successful in giving them the tools to improve their lives.

“More than anything, I want these men and women to leave with a sense of honor and appreciation. That we appreciate them,” said Dave Roever. “Above all, and most certainly, I want them to leave with a feeling of opportunity.”

To request more information about the Eagles Summit Ranch and its programs, visit the Eagles Summit Ranch website. WTB Soldiers may speak with their squad leaders about attending future programs at Eagles Summit Ranch.

 

“Healing Waters” Showcases Fly-Fishing for Wounded

By Patricia Sands, WTC Stratcom

Editor’s Note: Project Healing Waters is a participant in the AW2 Community Support Network.

Project Healing Waters was founded in 2005 at Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC), with the help of local Trout Unlimited (TU) and Federation of Fly Fishers (FFF) volunteers. PHWFF provides basic fly-fishing, fly casting, and fly tying instruction for wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans, ranging from beginners to those with prior fly-fishing experience who are adapting their skills to their new abilities.

While initially focused on military personnel in the Washington, DC area, PHWFF expanded and now offers its services to active military personnel and Veterans in military and Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals across the nation. Currently, PHWFF offers services in more than 70 locations in the US and Canada. Since its inception, PHWFF helps disabled active duty Soldiers and Veterans to overcome the obstacles associated with their military service-related disabilities. The relearning of the fine motor skills required in fly-fishing and fly tying proves to be particularly effective in the overall rehabilitation of the disabled.

While PHWFF emphasizes the skills of fly-fishing and fly tying to help the patients regain the use of their damaged bodies, perhaps the greatest benefit is in their realization that a more normal life is possible. Fly-fishing can be a lifelong recreation, both physically and emotionally. As one Soldier explained, “PHWFF helped in getting my head together during my recovery at Walter Reed. It was the perfect outlet for me while I was trying to adjust to my injuries and was a great help in broadening my horizons, giving me the hope and confidence that, no matter what my disabilities, I could still achieve and enjoy the activities of the outdoors and accomplish what I wanted to.“

To learn more about the organization, please visit the Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing Inc website. Additional information on nonprofit organizations may be found on the National Resource Directory website.

The Warrior Ethos—The Wounded Warrior Way

By Emily Oehler, WTC Stratcom

WTC releases new video to educate wounded Soldiers and their Families on enhanced warrior care system.

I am an American Soldier.

I am a Warrior and a member of a team. I serve the people of the United States and live the Army Values.

“When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I have to do is to put on my prosthetic device. So it’s that re-poking me in the rear, saying, yeah, your life is different now, but you’ve got to continue on. So I know that I’m missing a leg, and when I look down I can tell it, but as soon as I swing my leg off the bed and I put on that prosthetic device and stand up, I’m just like every other person who gets up in morning and goes to work and plays their part in society.” SFC John Wright, wounded warrior

I will always place the mission first. I will never accept defeat. I will never quit.

“The anger, the depression, anything like that regarding your wounds, it’s not going to change anything. It is just useless emotions. It doesn’t help you. So I always try to think positively about it. I take a hard look and say, if I want to do this, what are the steps I need to go through to make that happen?” CPT Jeremy McGuffey, wounded warrior

I will never leave a fallen comrade.

“Being in a quote unquote regular unit, a fighting unit, a combat engineering unit being in a route clearance patrol, your mission is very clear: drive down the road looking for stuff that’s going to blow up. After I got hurt and I became a member of the Warrior Transition Unit—the transition mission to me was completely unclear. At first I felt like a burden on the Army. But once I realized that, as a Warrior in Transition, I had a clear mission, and that mission was to get better, heal, and so I didn’t feel like a burden anymore. This is my job now. My squad leader, he’s really involved in taking care of any kind of issues that I have, whether it is that I’ve had issues with awards and finances, and he’ll take that off my plate because he just wants me to focus on recovery.” SFC John Wright, wounded warrior

I am disciplined, physically and mentally tough, trained and proficient in my warrior tasks and drills. I always maintain my arms, my equipment and myself. I am an expert and I am a professional.

“I recognized that I probably would not be able to do my old job anymore. And, so I was very interested in medical and specifically I kind of wanted to go to PA school. I’m expecting to come out of this and go do something that I’d kind of thought about but I’d never really laid any solid plans to do. So the trauma was very negative, but overall, I think we are going to come out of it in a better position in life.” CPT Jeremy McGuffey, wounded warrior

I stand ready to deploy, engage, and destroy the enemies of the United States of America in close combat.

“I was the most severely wounded. The blast itself killed two of my best friends. I just constantly think about them and always try to show them that I’m being tough for them. I got the second chance that they didn’t. And I am going to make them proud.” SSG Gabriel Garcia, wounded warrior

I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life.

“I live life happily. This is my new life. I’m missing an arm. I’m just lucky to still be alive, that’s the way I look at it. It doesn’t mean I can’t do anything a normal person can do. It is just a little tougher for me to do it and I have to be smart and figure out a way around it. Just because a person has 100 percent doesn’t mean his 100 percent is better than my 75, that’s what I tell my wife. I was like, ‘my 75 percent is better than most guys 100 percent’ and that’s the way I live my life.” SSG Gabriel Garcia, wounded warrior

I am an American Soldier.

Editor’s note: See more from these Soldiers in the Warrior Transition Command’s new video, “Soldier Success Through Focused Commitment.” Download the 10-minute video.

 

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.

 

AW2 Caregivers: Join Robin Carnes and Learn Stress Relief Techniques

By Patricia Sands, WTC Stratcom

Robin Carnes is the founder of Warriors at Ease.

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

Who: AW2 caregivers and spouses
What:
Caregivers support group to learn stress relief techniques
When:
Thursday, June 30 at 1:00 p.m. EST
Where: Nationwide conference call
Why:
To give support, friendship, and new strategies to succeed

Join us this month and every month for Thank Goodness It’s Thursday (TGIT) Meditation Hour. This regularly scheduled event on the last Thursday of every month will help relieve stress and assist caregivers and spouses in finding new coping skills.

Robin Carnes, founder of AW2 Community Support Network member Warriors at Ease will lead iRest, an easy-to-learn meditation technique, during the teleconference call. Carnes teaches this technique at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and has great success. For example, after using these techniques, her students report sleeping more soundly, having less pain, and generally feeling a greater peace of mind in daily life.

If you are interested in participating, please email me at AW2communitysupportnetwork@conus.army.mil to request the phone number and access codes for the call.

Army Homefront Fund

By BG Darryl A. Williams, WTC Commander

BG Darryl A. Williams

This morning I had the privilege along with key senior Army leaders to attend the kick-off of the Army Homefront Fund. The event was held at the Ronald Reagan Building, Washington, DC. As part of the ceremony I signed a memorandum of understanding recognizing the Army Homefront Fund—a nonprofit organization—created to support Soldiers who are wounded, become ill, or are injured while serving in a combat zone and their Families.

I want to acknowledge GEN Dennis Reimer, former Army chief of staff and now director of the Resource Advisory Committee for the Army Homefront Fund. Through the Association of the United States Army, Army Emergency Relief, and now the Army Homefront Fund, he continues his commitment to the Army he served most of his life. His contributions to Soldiers are unequalled.

As you all know, I am always proud of and humbled by the resiliency and strength of our wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and their Families. I’m also committed to helping them in times of financial crisis in the same way I’m committed to ensuring they have a smooth transition back to their units or as they depart military service. The Army Homefront Fund will offer support to Soldiers and their Families when financial issues occur whether it is for rent, utilities, insurance, or baby items.

Like other similar support organizations, Army Homefront Fund is a nonprofit agency. Agreements like this help bring together the Army and many of the outstanding not-for-profit groups who stand shoulder-to-shoulder with us each day for the benefit of Soldiers and their Families. The announcement of the Army Homefront Fund and its breadth shows that no organization can do it all. Having an organization with established processes and linkages can help to benefit our Soldiers and their Families. With this coalition of the willing, we will be able to provide for our Soldiers better than any of us can do alone.

I’m grateful each day that I have the opportunity to support our wounded, ill, and injured warriors and thankful for the generosity of the many individuals and organizations who continually reach out to the brave men and women who wear the uniform of the United States Army in recognition of the sacrifices they have made to secure freedom and democracy for this great nation of ours and for our friends and allies around the world.

For more information about the Army Homefront Fund, visit http://www.armyhomefrontfund.org or visit the following link for other supporting programs, https://www.nationalresourcedirectory.gov/.

Editor’s Note: The appearance of external hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the United States Department of Defense of the linked websites, or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) sites, the United States Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations. All links are provided consistent with the mission of this website.

AW2 Soldier Becomes Smith & Wesson Shooting Star

By Melvin Taylor, AW2 Advocate

While serving in Afghanistan as a Black Hawk pilot, CW3 Trevor Baucom was injured during a nighttime assault mission. The helicopter crash left him paralyzed from the waist down. Most of his rehabilitation was performed in Franklin, TN, at the Shepherd Center utilizing Beyond Therapy®, an activity-based therapy program.

While assigned to the Fort Campbell Warrior Transition Unit and receiving therapy, we processed his adaptive vehicle and housing grants. He attended the vehicle driving course, and he is getting around effortlessly now. His home was modified with an elevator to assist him from one level to the next.

Also during his therapy sessions, he met Jim Scoutten from Shooting USA, a shooting and gun sport television show. The two quickly became friends, and the idea of Baucom becoming a competitive shooter was spun. With the help of Smith & Wesson, Safariland™, and Atlanta Arms and Ammo, he began training with the goal of becoming a competitive shooter. His training started with courses at the National Rifle Association (NRA) National Action Pistol Championship. He trained between doctor’s appointments and his children’s soccer schedule.

On April 30, 2011, Baucom was officially introduced as part of the Smith & Wesson team. His first competitive shooting event was the MidwayUSA/NRA Bianchi Cup National Championship during Memorial Day weekend in Columbia, MO. Competitors came from all over the world to demonstrate their abilities in precision and mistake-free shooting. To prepare for the Bianchi Cup, he trained with one of the industry’s top competitors, Billy Abbate of Atlanta Arms and Ammo. Baucom, an avid hunter, practiced with a Smith & Wesson M&P9 Pro Series pistol for a month. Every practice session became an event to improve his x-count, achieving shots closer and closer to the bull’s-eye and incurring higher points. He was one of two competitors shooting from a wheelchair.

He is very competitive and pushes himself at all times to compete on a higher level. Another goal of his is to inspire other wounded, ill, and injured servicemembers to take up competitive shooting. Since his arrival into the sport, competitive shooting organizations began to look for ways to open its doors to other disabled shooters.

Google Trevor Baucom and you will see that he is truly a shooting star.

Mental Resilience Helps Achieve Success

By Kaitlyn Donohoe, CSF-PREP Performance Enhancement Specialist

Comprehensive Soldier Fitness-Performance and Resilience Enhancement Program (CSF-PREP) performance specialist Kaitlyn Donohoe, works with Army track and field athletes at the 2011 Warrior Games.

The Comprehensive Soldier Fitness-Performance and Resilience Enhancement Program (CSF-PREP) educates and trains individuals on the behavioral skills that underlie human performance excellence. The program is designed to enhance personal and professional performances by developing the full potential of Soldiers, Family members, and Army Civilians. CSF-PREP accomplishes this by using a systematic process to teach and train the behavioral skills essential to the pursuit of personal strength, professional excellence, and the Warrior Ethos.

CSF-PREP education and training focuses on bridging the gap between the rehabilitation process and the Soldier’s transition back into the Army or civilian life by providing the knowledge and skills to craft their future. CSF-PREP teaches Soldiers the critical underlying skills needed to take ownership and control of their recovery, to focus on their abilities versus disabilities, and to provide the tools to help enhance their mindset so that they have a sense of purpose and are effectively motivated about their future.

In elite competition, such as the Warrior Games that took place last month, all athletes train to enhance their physical skills; what separates medal winners from the rest is mental strength. CSF-PREP trains the mental strength of individuals. In working with the Warrior Games athletes, we worked with individual athletes and teams to teach them the skills of our education model and the ways to apply them to their athletic performances. Each Soldier and Veteran who participated in the Warrior Games completed at least 16 hours of classroom education to learn and develop a foundational knowledge of the skills we utilize.

For the Warrior Games, I had the privilege to work with the Army track and field team. In addition to the general CSF-PREP training, I conducted another five hours of applied group training that was tailored to track and field events and team building. As a part of this training, each athlete created a mental performance plan for each event during individual or small group sessions.

With an individual sport like track and field, Soldiers athletes need to focus on the right thing and manage their nerves and energy to have optimal performance. For example, I worked with a Soldier for several weeks before the Warrior Games began. He was excited to have the opportunity to compete again, as he had not played sports competitively since high school, but was worried about how he would perform in such a highly visible event.

This sense of discouragement can negatively influence one’s performance. Before the Games, I discussed with the Soldier about the influence of a positive attitude on performance and how focused attention and energy on factors within one’s control has power over one’s performance. We also worked to create tangible goals for competition and plans for how to achieve them and help achieve a greater sense of control.

When we first arrived at the Warrior Games training camp, the Soldier had a more effective attitude toward his performance. Throughout the training camp, we finalized his individualized mental training plan to focus on imagery, pre-performance routines, refocus techniques, and recovery techniques. We worked to maintain focus amidst distractions and set the conditions for success, regardless of the circumstances that may try to get in the way of optimal performance. At the Warrior Games, this Soldier effectively applied the mental skills we discussed to his physical skills and techniques and earned a silver medal for the Army team.

The journey to obtain mental strength for life is a continuous process and is unique to every individual. To share in this collective journey of personal growth with the warrior athletes, cadre, coaches, medical staff and other CSF-PREP performance specialists was a priceless and tremendously gratifying experience. I can honestly say I have the best job, because I had the honor to work with the men and women who gave so much to defend our nation and our freedom.

Editor’s Note: Kaitlyn Donohoe has a background in Sport Performance Psychology and has a Master of Science from Miami University of Ohio in Sport Psychology. She has several years of experience working with athletes and individuals to enhance performance through mental skills training.

Retired SFC Matthew Netzel Awarded Purple Heart

By Deana Perry, AW2 Advocate

Retired SFC Matthew Netzel holds his two-year-old daughter, Abigail, while speaking to the audience at his Purple Heart Ceremony.

When retired SFC Mattew Netzel first asked for my help with his Purple Heart, I told him, “Sure, no problem, we can do that.” Then the details came. We first tracked down his treating physician for medical documentation on his injuries sustained in Afghanistan in 2006—two thousand six! Quietly, I was thinking, oh boy, how do I do that? Can I do that? But I wasn’t about to let Netzel know that I was uncertain of my success. If I told him I would only try, then I might be tempted to only try. In my mind, he was holding me accountable to follow through. He was going to get his Purple Heart. And, that required more than just a nice try.

Last month, my husband, my son, and I walked down the sidewalk outside the city hall building toward the Purple Heart Memorial in Harker Heights, TX. It was drizzling and a bit humid as we approached the crowd. I saw Netzel standing near the memorial, surrounded by his Family and friends. It was there where he received his Purple Heart during a ceremony hosted by the Military Order of the Purple Heart Central Texas Chapter #1876. I watched and swelled with pride and satisfaction as retired MG Stewart Meyer pinned the Purple Heart to Netzel’s chest and said the Purple Heart was a small token of appreciation for the sacrifices he made for his country. When Netzel spoke, with his daughter in his arms, he thanked the crowd and said, “It makes you reflect on the ones that aren’t able to be here.”

So, I did leave a lot out of this story, but the how doesn’t seem as imporatant as the who and why. Netzel is an inspiration to me, and it was a priviledge to be a part of the efforts that ensured he received recognition for his sacrifices while defending our nation. Almost every time we talk, he thanks me for helping him, but I’m not the one who is owed thanks. It is an honor to serve as his AW2 Advocate. Thank you, Matt!

Editor’s Note: SFC Matthew Netzel was injured in November 2006 when his 11-man patrol was ambushed by as many as 60 Taliban fighters. Four rocket-propelled grenades detonated next to Netzel and two other Soldiers. The blast threw Netzel off a 10-foot embankment onto a rockbed.

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