AW2 Weekly Digest 12/14-12/18

  • AW2 Veteran Daniel Bivens, featured in the Yuma Sun, is not letting a traumatic brain injury keep him from doing his civilian job.
  • AW2 Veteran Maurice Craft and his Family, featured in The Fayetteville Observer, received a specially adapted home built by volunteers and Homes for Our Troops.
  • AW2 Soldier SSG Michael Downing and his Family, featured in The Boston Herald, received a specially adapted home built by volunteers and Homes for Our Troops.
  • AW2 Veterans Matt Houston and Joe Jenkins, featured on the Scott Air Force Base Web site, participated in a morale-building deer hunt in Illinois.
  • Melvin R. Kearney II, an AW2 Advocate who served two tours of duty in Operation Iraqi Freedom, was featured on AnnArbor.com for being the key note speaker at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System in honor of Veterans Day.
  • AW2 spouse Annette McLeod and her husband AW2 Veteran Dell McLeod are featured in The Washington Post almost three years after the series of articles on Walter Reed, and she says that she is satisfied overall with the care her husband is now receiving.
  • AW2 Advocate Eric Mitchell was featured in The Gazette in an article about Soldiers and spouses receiving scholarships from Colorado Technical University.
  • AW2 father Craig Remsburg, featured in the St. Petersburg Times, was in awe of how the Tampa community honored his son, AW2 Soldier SSG Cory Remsburg, at Operation Helping Hand’s monthly dinner at the James A. Haley VA Medical Center’s Spinal Cord Injury Center.
  • AW2 Soldier CPT D.J. Skelton, featured in The Square Deal, was honored for his extraordinary contributions to the nation’s security and overcoming his wounds to devote himself to showing others how to overcome theirs.
  • AW2 Soldier SGT Luis Rosa-Valentin and his Family, featured in The Washington Times, received a specially adapted home built by volunteers and Homes for Our Troops.

The appearance of external hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the United States Department of Defense of the linked web sites, 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.

AW2 Weekly Digest 12/7-12/11

  • AW2 Veteran Joe Bowser, featured in the Old Town Crier, went on a trip—to military bases and hospitals in Iraq and Germany—that provided him a sense of closure.
  • AW2 Advocates Timothy Brice, Madigan Army Medical Center, WA; Sue Maloney, Seattle, WA; and Kima Tozay, Fort Lewis, WA; were featured on the Army One Source Page in an article about Heroes to Hometowns.
  • AW2 Soldier SSG Alfredo De Los Santos, featured in Army News, tested a new microprocessor-controlled prosthetic knee at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
  • AW2 Soldier and Veterans LTC Greg Gadson, Nathan Hunt, and Mike McNaughton—as well as BG Gary Cheek, Commander, Warrior Transition Command—were featured in The Leader for their participation in the Ride 2 Recovery Florida Challenge.
  • AW2 Veteran Brian Pearce, featured in the Richmond Post Dispatch, is participating in the West Point Society of Richmond’s Wounded Warrior Mentorship Program.
  • AW2 Veteran Peter John Rooney III was featured in Daily Hampshire Gazette article about his injury, rehabilitation, Family and community support, and recovery.

The appearance of external hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the United States Department of Defense of the linked web sites, 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.

AW2 Weekly Digest 11/23-12/4

  • AW2 Family, the Allens, were featured in an AW2 press release about the service dog they received from Puppies Behind Bars and the AW2 Community Support Network.
  • AW2 Soldier SFC Chris Blaxton was featured in the East Lansing Journal in an article about his injury, recovery, and focusing on Family, friends, and the future.
  • AW2 Veteran Bryan Anderson, featured on the Military Health System Web site, offered a message of perseverance and courage at a recent event held in McLean, Va.
  • AW2 Soldier 1LT Dan Berschinski, featured in The Seattle Times, returned to West Point with a strong desire to hear his commander in chief give a long awaited policy speech that outlines the way forward in Afghanistan.
  • AW2 Soldier 1LT Brian Brennan, SPC Ryan Price, and their Families were featured in an Ashbury Park Press article about The Brennan Stands Alone Foundation—which has grown into a vehicle to aid other military Families.
  • BG Gary Cheek, commander of the U.S. Army Warrior Transition Command, and AW2 Soldier MAJ L. Tammy Duckworth, Department of Veterans Affairs Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs, discussed a number of programs in which the two departments collaborate to help wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers on the Pentagon Channel’s “This Week in the Pentagon” on December 4.
  • AW2 Soldier LTC Greg Gadson, featured in The Times-Leader and Citizen Voice, spoke to students at Wilkes University about leading a productive and inspirational life.
  • AW2 Soldier WO1 Johnathan Holsey was featured in Ebony Magazine’s “Power 150” people profiles for being the first amputee to attend warrant officer school and inspiring other enlisted amputees (December 2009/January 2010 issue, page 110).
  • AW2 Soldier SFC Matthew Lamb was featured in a blog for the Oregon National Guard about AW2 holding a muster for injured Soldiers at Kliever Memorial Armory in Portland, OR. Soldiers participated in a day of “hands-on” training hosted by Oregon Disability Sports.
  • AW2 Veteran, Michael McNaughton, who works for Louisiana Veterans Affairs, was featured on “Fox and Friends” discussing his involvement in the Impact a Hero Foundation and their fundraiser for a Christmas party at Walter Reed.
  • AW2 Veteran Howard Mann and his wife were featured in The Fayetteville Observer in an article about his injury, recovery, and pushing the boundaries—thanks to Fort Bragg’s Warrior Transition Battalion.
  • AW2 Veteran Chase Matthews and his Family, featured in The Paducah Sun, received a specially adapted house built by his community and Homes for Our Troops.
  • AW2 Soldier SFC Ed O’Neil, featured in The Oklahoman, embraces new mission of being part of the U.S. Paralympic sitting volleyball team.
  • AW2 Soldier SPC Adam Paul, featured in The Coloradoan, is rebuilding memory and life with the help of a Fort Collins learning center.
  • AW2 Veteran, Joshua Revak, was featured on the YouTube Web site in an interview and singing on “The Huckabee Show” on Fox News.
  • AW2 Veteran Kyle Salisbury, featured in The Bellingham Herald, discussed the challenge of coming back to civilian life and the help he received from AW2 and his AW2 Advocate Sue Maloney.
  • AW2 Veteran Alvin Shell was featured on the Saluting American Valor Web site in an article about his long recovery, perseverance, and courage.
  • AW2 Soldier CPT D.J. Skelton, featured in DefenseLINK, was honored by the Business Executives for National Service for his work to improve conditions for other wounded servicemembers.
  • AW2 Veteran Erik Stewart, featured on DefenseLINK, looks forward to a rewarding career as an Army civilian advising other warriors in transition not to rush the process.
  • AW2 Veterans Melissa Stockwell and Luke Wilson were featured in The Oregonian in an article about disabled Oregon Veterans being offered a free trip to the 2010 Paralympic Games in March.
  • AW2 Veteran Shane Ugliono, featured in the Salmon Press, participated in a weekend of holiday cheer in Park City, UT, courtesy of Christmas Can Cure.

The appearance of external hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the United States Department of Defense of the linked web sites, 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.

The Coming Home Project

By Sharon Brady, AW2 Advocate

The School of Social Work at Monmouth University in New Jersey was concerned about the needs of returning Veterans and their Families. To address these concerns, Monmouth held a conference in October called The Coming Home Project to identify these needs.

The goals of The Coming Home Project are to educate and prepare social work students to work with Veterans and Families; educate and equip community providers to work with Veterans and their Families; and assist the university, as a whole, to support Veterans who are enrolled at Monmouth.

AW2 has had the unique opportunity to be a part of this on-going process. As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), I was honored when I was asked by Monmouth to serve as an active member of the Advisory Committee for the project as well as the curriculum sub-committee.

In October, AW2 Veterans Joseph Nyzio and William Cooper were the featured panelists for the University’s Ability Awareness Program, entitled, “Returning Veterans: Achievements and Challenges.” Joe, now a Veteran Service Officer for the State of New Jersey, and Bill, a Special Aide to U.S. Congressman Chaka Fattah did a wonderful job of presenting a balanced picture of their personal challenges and achievements.

Following the presentation, Bill told me what the experience of being on the panel meant to him, “After the presentation,  a Veteran with a Traumatic Brain Injury came up to me  and said what a relief it was to know someone else who is having similar experiences. It was an honor to know that telling my story helped another Veteran.”

Earlier this month, I was honored to be present at the School of Social Work seminar, entitled, “Coming Home: The Impact of War on Military Personnel, Their Families and Their Communities.” In my presentation, I focused on the various benefits and services available to assist both military members and Families in the process of recovery.

With all the media attention on the problems that exist with returning Veterans and their Families, it is refreshing to be a part of a process that is both proactive and in accordance with our belief that Veterans and their Families are self-sufficient, contributing members of our community.

Hooah to these AW2 Veterans and the Monmouth University School of Social Work for their outstanding work!

The appearance of external hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the United States Department of Defense of the linked web sites, 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.

AW2 Weekly Digest 11/16-11/23

Weekly digest of previous week’s stories on AW2 Soldiers, Veterans, Families, and staff.

  • AW2 Veteran and Advocate Clay Rankin was featured in The Standard-Times in an article about his injury and being an AW2 Advocate.
  • AW2 mother Sheila Shaffer discussed how people have the wrong assumptions when her son, Adam Shaffer, and other wounded warriors legally and justifiably park in handicapped parking spots in The Arizona Republic Blog.

The appearance of external hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the United States Department of Defense of the linked web sites, 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.

Employing Veterans with Invisible Wounds

The Associated Press recently ran a great story highlighting the Army’s efforts to educate employers about hiring wounded warriors who have “invisible wounds” or behavioral health illnesses such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs). The article calls attention to the need for employers to make accommodations for Veterans with both visible and invisible wounds:

The Army’s Wounded Warrior Program, which helps veterans adjust to civilian life, has been reaching out to employers to educate them and encourage them to hire former soldiers with invisible wounds…

“Employers find it easier to accommodate those physical disabilities. They can get special equipment,” said Sue Maloney, who works with veterans in the Wounded Warrior Program in the Seattle area. But “you can’t always see the wounds or the injuries.”

The article shows some of the ways that employers can accommodate Veterans who have PTSD and TBIs through the example of Richard Martin, a 48-year-old engineer and former Army National Guard Major, who now works for Northrop Grumman. When Martin was hired, Northrop Grumman consulted occupational nurses on how to help him do his job. Martin also helped himself by using noise canceling headphones to keep him from getting distracted, sticky notes to remind him of things, and by placing a rearview mirror on his desk so he isn’t startled when co-workers come up behind him.

In addition to these accommodations, there are many others that employers can make to assist Veterans with “invisible wounds” to successfully transition to the civilian workforce. To learn more about the types of accommodations that employers can make, I talked with AW2 Career Coordinator Scott Cox in our headquarters about the topic.

“There are a number of accommodations that employers can easily make, at little to no cost, to assist Veterans with PTSD and TBIs,” said Scott Cox. “Most employers make these types of accommodations everyday for their existing workforce. Wounded Veterans bring a tremendous amount of experiences and skills that employers seek. Employers just need more information on how to support Veterans with invisible injuries.”

Scott Cox then shared a list of accommodations that employers can provide to assist Veterans with PTSD, TBIs, and other behavioral health issues from the Job Accommodation Network. Below are some of the highlights:

  • Provide space enclosures or a private space
  • Allow the employee to play soothing music using a headset
  • Divide large assignments into smaller goal oriented tasks or steps
  • Allow longer or more frequent work breaks as needed
  • Provide additional time to learn new responsibilities
  • Allow for time off for counseling
  • Give assignments, instructions, or training in writing or via e-mail
  • Provide detailed day-to-day guidance and feedback
  • Develop strategies to deal with problems before a crisis occurs
  • Allow employee to work from home part-time
  • Provide disability awareness training to coworkers and supervisors
  • Use stress management techniques to deal with frustration
  • Allow telephone calls during work hours to doctors and others for needed support
  • Provide a place for the employee to sleep during break
  • Provide straight shift or permanent schedule
  • Count one occurrence for all PTSD-related absences
  • Allow the employee to make up the time missed
  • Identify and remove environmental triggers such as particular smells or noises

For the complete list, click here to visit the Job Accommodation Network Web site.

As you can see, many of these accommodations aren’t all that different from those that employers already make for many employees in their workforce. However, it is important to remember that each case is different, as Scott Cox pointed out in our conversation, “Every wounded Veteran is different and the accommodations made should be tailored to that particular Veteran’s needs. AW2 works with employers to help ensure that the experience is rewarding for both the hiring organization and the Veteran.”

If you are an employer interested in hiring a Veteran with invisible wounds, please contact an AW2 Career  Coordinator via email at AW2careerprogram@conus.army.mil or call (703) 325-0579.

Interview with AW2 Advocate Eric Mitchell

veterans-day-parade_eric_mitchell

AW2 Soldiers and Veterans participate in a Veterans Day parade that AW2 Advocate Eric Mitchell helped organize

The following is an interview that AW2 conducted with Colorado Springs-based AW2 Advocate Eric Mitchell. Eric spent 23 years in the Army, including 17 as an Army Career Counselor. Following his service, Eric worked at Fort Carson as a contractor working for the In-Service Transition program. He currently serves on a number of community-based boards and recently served on the selections board for the Colorado Technical University Wounded Warriors Scholarship Fund, which has awarded 87 scholarships to wounded warriors and their Families.

Tell us about Colorado Technical University’s programs for wounded warriors and their Families. What services and support does CTU offer?

The CTU Wounded Warrior Scholarships and Wounded Warrior Spouse Scholarships are full-ride scholarships that allow students to complete their next higher degree. All tuition and course materials are included in the scholarship. Each wounded warrior is given a new laptop computer, which they get to keep at the completion of their course work. Each student works closely with a student advisor to address any issues that may arise related to their recovery and their education. CTU shares the AW2 philosophy that recovering is the Soldier’s primary mission, and CTU works with the Soldier to help make going to school and getting their degree correspond with their primary mission. As an example, the Colorado Springs CTU campus has already implemented plans to provide individualized assistance to local students to ensure they are successful in their educational pursuits.

How did you get involved with CTU?

I have been a member of the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce, Military Affairs Council (MAC) for about five years. Two years ago, while at a MAC event, Greg Mitchell (President, CTU — Colorado Springs) provided an informational briefing about the CTU Wounded Warriors Scholarships. When I came to AW2, I made sure I became involved to make sure our AW2 Soldiers, Veterans and their Families had the best possible opportunity to apply for and win a scholarship. Over the last year, CTU has not only been working with AW2 to help Soldiers and Veterans with educational opportunities, but CTU had also been extremely generous in providing financial assistance to wounded warriors in need. CTU has included Advocates in their internal educational training workshops on working with wounded warriors who have PTSD, TBI, and other disabilities. CTU has also opened numerous doors with other organizations within the community to help our wounded warriors adjust to their new norms and be all that they can be. Greg and CTU have even provided funding for a specially designed “rugby wheelchair” for an AW2 Veteran of mine who is a quadriplegic and who is attempting to become a Paralympian.

What was meeting AW2 Soldier MAJ Tammy Duckworth like? What perspective did she bring to the process?

It was a great honor to meet Secretary Duckworth and her husband, MAJ Bryan W. Bowlsbey. During dinner, I was amazed at her spirit and her great sense of humor. Secretary Duckworth showed all of us that there is a full life after a very serious injury. Secretary Duckworth noticed my AW2 lapel pin, and we instantly connected. I was also fortunate to participate on the Wounded Warrior Scholarship Selection Board with Secretary Duckworth. Secretary Duckworth brought a no-nonsense professionalism to the committee, and she instilled a sense in each of us that we were about to change the lives of Soldiers, Veterans, and their Families forever. She stressed that we needed to ensure the scholarships went to not only those who were the most deserving, but to those who would be most impacted. Secretary Duckworth exemplifies the model that it is about ability, not disability. It was also an honor to meet Mrs. Marie Tillman, spouse of Army Ranger and former Arizona Cardinal, SGT Pat Tillman. Mrs. Tillman was the Chair of the Wounded Warrior Spouse Scholarship Committee, and she was a great asset to the CTU scholarship process.

How many AW2 Soldiers and Veterans have received scholarships from CTU?

CTU has awarded 87 scholarships to wounded servicemembers over the past two years. Soldiers, Marines, and Airmen have all been recipients of the scholarships. Over the last two years, 37 of the Wounded Warriors scholarships went to wounded Army servicemembers. In the past, locations like Walter Reed, BAMC, and Bethesda were the only sites that were able to apply for the scholarships. This year CTU made two major changes to their program. First, they expanded it to several locations with large wounded warrior populations. Second, they instituted a Wounded Warrior Spouse Scholarships program for the spouses of our wounded warriors. These scholarships will allow these spouses to get the education they need to support their Families. This year, AW2 Soldiers, Veterans, and Spouses received all 25 wounded warrior scholarships and all 25 wounded warrior spouse scholarships.

Can you share a personal story of how the CTU program has made an impact on an AW2 Soldier or Veteran’s life?

There would be 87 outstanding examples of how these Wounded Warrior Scholarships have affected Soldiers and Families. One of the best examples is of an AW2 Soldier, SSG Damien Wilson, from Fort Stewart, GA. SSG Wilson was injured in Baghdad, Iraq. While recovering at Walter Reed, he saw the CTU Scholarship Application and applied. SSG Wilson was subsequently awarded a scholarship for an associates degree in general studies. In March, I received notice that CTU was graduating their first graduate from the program, and I was asked to attend the graduation. I was informed CTU would be bringing the Soldier and his Family to Colorado Springs to attend the graduation. I worked with SSG Wilson’s AW2 Advocate, Nicholas Alexuk, to coordinate the event and I was honored to attend SSG Wilson’s graduation, as a representative of AW2 Advocate Alexuk and AW2. SSG Wilson’s underlying theme throughout the graduation activities was that he wanted to set an example for his children that even with his severe injuries, he was able to go to school and get a college education. SSG Wilson was recognized by the keynote speaker and the President of CTU while receiving three standing ovations during the ceremony. SSG Wilson is the first in his Family to get a college degree, and he is continuing his education to pursue a bachelor degree.

Are there any other opportunities in Colorado coming up that you would like to share with the AW2 community?

Colorado Springs and the State of Colorado are absolutely one of the greatest areas in the country in supporting our military, both active duty Soldiers and Veterans. Working from within the County Veterans Services Office in El Paso County, Colorado, I am able to not only support my Veteran population, but also reach out to local organizations who want to support our Soldiers and Families. There is seldom a day that goes by where there isn’t at least one organization that wants to provide support or assistance to our Soldiers or Veterans. I recently met with the United States Olympic Committee, U.S. Paralympics Division to expand the outreach within the wounded warrior population, the City of Colorado Springs, and the USOC.

For more information about CTU, visit http://www.coloradotech.edu/.

The appearance of external hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the United States Department of Defense of the linked web sites, 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.

Suicide Reaches Beyond One Person’s Death

By Sue Maloney, AW2 Advocate in Seattle

Speak Up, Reach Out

Speak Up, Reach Out

As a child, a close Family member used suicide as the way to escape intense and unending pain. For him, it was an avenue to spare additional pain to his Family because he saw no other options. Even though there had been failed attempts in the past, on-going medical treatment did not resolve the recurring or underlying pain that permeated his life. The suicide of my Family member greatly impacted my life as a child, woman, Soldier, Veteran, friend, and as an AW2 Advocate.

In my experience, most people don’t really want to talk about any combination of mental health, suicide, and/or death. They are taboo subjects built on pain and shame and are often ignored. When people discuss these subjects they are generally whispered behind closed doors with elements of pity, blame, and shame.

There are changes in society, but they are slow in coming. Today, the Army, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Veterans Affairs, have all increased efforts to reach out to Soldiers and Veterans and offer them a different path from suicide. Instead of unending pain and hopelessness, there are resources in place to help individuals find a different way to live. I encourage you to identify local programs and national resources before you or someone close to you needs them.

As a friend, Family member, or Advocate, it’s important to watch, look, and listen for the warning signs of severe depression and suicide, which might include: threats of hurting oneself, increased drinking or drug use, a sense of hopelessness, increased agitation, feelings of being trapped, withdrawal, or risky behavior that could lead to death-accidental or purposeful.

It’s important to offer hope by getting help for the person who might be feeling lost, lonely, or desperate. Here are some tips that I’ve learned over the years: listen without judgment or advice; share your concern for their welfare; and ask them if they have suicidal thoughts or a suicide plan. If they are having suicidal thoughts, do not leave them alone, immediately call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK and push #1 for assistance with Veterans. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has trained counselors available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For additional tips and resources that are helpful to counselors, families, friends or persons at-risk, please visit their Web site at www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

I encourage anyone who is hurting enough to contemplate death as an end to the pain to reach out to someone, personal or professional, and don’t give up too soon. If you are a friend or Family member, listen to your loved one, and help them to get to a professional who can help them work through their pain. You may need additional support as well. Getting help is hard work, but so is ignoring the symptoms and hoping they’ll go away on their own.

Suicide reaches beyond one person’s death; it leaves a legacy that touches so many lives for generations.

One Visit to VAMC Honolulu Changed My Life

By Simona Jackson, AW2 Advocate

Mary Grimes, AW2 Stratcom

MAJ Duckworth and Victoria Photo Credit: Mary Grimes, AW2

In October 2007, I travelled to Hawaii for a routine AW2 site visit to brief USARPAC Gen John Brown III.

Prior to my departure I took a pregnancy home test which reflected my first pregnancy at 37 years of age. As I traveled, I experienced discomfort, nausea, and cramping – all of which heightened my fears and anxiety. When I arrived in Honolulu, I was advised by our SGM to be seen by a VAMC doctor to ensure my health and welfare.

As an Army Veteran, I had used VAMC services before and was worried about whether or not they would have enough availability for “female services.”

However, on October 17, 2007, I proceeded to the VAMC Honolulu and was asked by the staff to take a blood and urine test. When the tests came back I was encouraged by the female physician who said, “Mrs. Jackson would you like to be the first female Veteran to receive an ultrasound in our Women’s Clinic? It just opened a few days ago.”

I kindly and proudly said, “Yes I will.”

As the ER physician escorted me to the Women’s Clinic and to the ultrasound room she said a small prayer for me and congratulated me again by saying, “See your baby is making history already!”

They allowed me to call my husband, Ronald Jackson, who was in Virginia and we rejoiced together in tears! The service I received at the new VAMC Honolulu Women’s clinic was kind and professional — I am truly grateful to them for service they provided.

After my doctor appointment, I had the honor of meeting MAJ Tammy Duckworth who happened to be in Hawaii visiting her childhood school. It was an incredible feeling to be sharing my first pregnancy pictures with a woman who played an instrumental role in helping to increase access to women’s health services at that time through her position as the Director of the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs.

Earlier this year, MAJ Duckworth, who is now the Assistant Secretary of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs for the VA, got to meet my little Victoria at AW2’s Annual Training in San Antonio. Victoria smiled as if she had known MAJ Duckworth for years. On our return from San Antonio, my husband and Victoria also had the opportunity to see MAJ Duckworth at the Washington Reagan Airport in Washington D.C. where Victoria gave hugs and hand waves to MAJ Duckworth.

As an AW2 Soldier, MAJ Duckworth needed a new AW2 Advocate when she relocated to Washington, D.C. to serve as the Assistant Secretary. As fate would have it, I was recently assigned to be her advocate.

I am proud to be an AW2 Advocate for MAJ Duckworth and it is a privilege to advocate for her, just as she advocates for all female Veterans.

Reflections from an AW2 Advocate

My name is Yvonne Michek and I am an AW2 Advocate in Fort Hood, Texas. Last week marked my two-year anniversary as an AW2 Advocate (6 August). First and foremost, I applaud all the AW2 Advocates who have dedicated the last several years to serving severely wounded Soldiers and Families. There are many others who started before me and with me and are still here, working hard to help our Soldiers and Families every single day.

It seemed appropriate that I spent the week of my two-year anniversary back in D.C., attending the training session for new AW2 Advocates. During the training, I reflected back on my time with AW2 and all the changes I have seen in the program. As AW2 has grown in size, our knowledge base has also grown, which is evident in the very impressive training session for new Advocates. I think most AW2 Advocates will readily admit that we don’t know everything- how could we with so much information changing almost daily? So it’s no surprise that I learned something new every day during this last week or so.

Anyone who has ever been around me will not be surprised when I say that the most difficult part of attending this training is being quiet! (ha, ha!) I just feel compelled to share lessons learned with these newest Advocates so that they won’t run into some of the brick walls that I did. So, to keep the head trainer, Meg O’Grady, from regretting my presence here, I developed a method of taking notes and sharing my lessons learned at the end of the day. These are just little pieces of information that I found helpful when starting to work with our Soldiers and their Families and things to think about when addressing their issues.

I don’t think that any of the new Advocates left the training thinking that their jobs will be easy and that they won’t encounter challenges. At the training, it was reiterated that the key to this job is passion. In my experiences working with this unique population of wounded Soldiers, it is passion that gives me the strength to come to work every day, the strength to face those challenges, the strength to learn and find solutions and information, and the strength to advocate for those Soldiers!

So, I finished up the training knowing that I also learned a lot (and I saw the Lincoln Memorial for the first time!) And I will continue to reflect on the question asked by SGM Jurgersen on the first day of training. First, he asked each new Advocate to explain their background and why they took this job. Then he asked me a different question , he asked me to speak of the one case that brought me to my knees, made me go home and cry, made me lose sleep at night. My reply? That there isn’t “one” case that has made me cry, that brought me to my knees, that made me lose sleep at night. They all do.

A note to the new Advocates (and seasoned ones too) – Be strong. There are so many that need us to be. Never forget that.

Advocate Michek, Ft. Hood, TX

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