Welcome 7 New Organizations to the Community Support Network

By LuAnn Georgia, WTC Stratcom
Please join me in welcoming the newest organizations to the Community Support Network. These organizations offer resources that help better the lives of AW2 Soldiers, Veterans, Families, and Caregivers.  Click on the links below for more information about them and the types of products and services provided.

Type of Organization:  Adaptive Sports and Recreational Services

Type of Organization:  Adaptive Mental Wellness and Counseling; Services for Families, Children, and Caregivers

Type of Organization:  Housing Assistance

Type of Organization:  Career Training, Education, Human Resources Support, and Employment Opportunities

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

Do you know of an organization that wants to assist wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers, Veterans, their Families, and Caregivers?  We are happy to provide membership information to these organizations based on your requests and referrals. Please email contact information to the Community Support Network at: usarmy.pentagon.medcomwtc.mbx.aw2communitysupportnetwork@mail.mil.

AW2 Veteran Alvin Shell Calls on Employers to Break Down Preconceived ideas of TBI, PTSD, and Physical Disabilities

AW2 Veteran Alvin Shell continues to share his story publicly in order to inspire wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans and to gain support for the AW2 community.

By Alli Kartachak, WTC Stratcom
Recently I had the pleasure of connecting with AW2 Veteran, retired CPT Alvin Shell who spoke with his wife two weeks ago on a panel at the 2012 Warrior-Family Symposium. After the event, I was eager to follow up with CPT Shell and learn more about him and his outlook. I respect his bravery and wanted to know why he thinks it is important to share his story. Most of all, I wanted to know how CPT Shell feels when he speaks about his journey through transition and into recovery.

Alli: What did it mean to you to share your story at the 2012 Warrior-Family Symposium?

CPT Shell:  It meant a lot to share my story with the attendees at the 2012 Warrior-Family Symposium. When I saw some of the people wiping away tears, nodding their heads to affirm a point I was trying to make, and clapping their hands, it made me feel like my Family’s sacrifice was appreciated.

Alli: How have experiences like this symposium helped you throughout your recovery?

CPT Shell: Experiences like this have really helped me. I always get more from the experience than I give. Hearing other stories of triumphs, tenacity, and true American patriotism is what gets me out of bed. These other wounded warriors keep me humble and inspired. I can never complain about my burned limbs and joint pains when there are others without limbs and joints that work twice as hard as me.

Alli: What message can you give to other wounded, ill, and injured Veterans who have recently separated from the Army and are looking for jobs?

CPT Shell: Work hard. Don’t allow people to focus on your disabilities, allow them to focus on your abilities. There is no defined career track, promotion point system, or senior NCOs to guide you through your career. If you begin to feel like you deserve a promotion or a job without merit and stop relying on the tenacity that helped you fight through your recovery and through your military career, you will be left behind and miss opportunities in your organization.

Alli: What is the biggest lesson you learned through your injury and recovery?

CPT Shell: My Family is everything to me. My mother and father are my heroes. I draw strength from their wisdom and love. My three boys inspire me to work hard. They have taught me more than I have taught them. My wife has been everything a husband could ask for.

Alli: How can real people support wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans who are actively seeking employment?

CPT Shell: Break down the preconceived ideas of what TBI, PTSD, and physical disabilities are and talk to our wounded warriors. Their patriotism will inspire. Their work ethic will enhance your company. Their stories are the building blocks of this nation.

Thank you CPT Shell for taking the time to answer my questions and share with us your positive and supportive messages. Thank you for your commitment to your fellow Veterans and your strength in supporting those who have served our country. Thank you for inspiring us.


AW2 Veteran Shares Inspiring Message at 2012 Warrior-Family Symposium

CPT Alvin Shell and his wife Chilketha spoke at the 2012 Warrior-Family Symposium at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center on September 13, 2012.

By Alli Kartachak, WTC Stratcom
I had the honor of attending the 2012 Warrior-Family Symposium sponsored by Military Officer’s Association of America (MOAA) and National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) in Washington D.C. The event truly moved me as I was able to hear some incredibly touching stories and witness first-hand the pain, hope, and love surrounding wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers, Veterans, their Families, and Caregivers.

The event was a tribute to these resilient men and women and their Families, and a “salute to their sacrifice.” Perhaps one of the most striking things I learned was that although wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers make incredible sacrifices to protect our nation, their Families also endure incredible sacrifices.

Veterans and Family members from several branches of the military shared their experiences on a panel. Each story reminded the audience that although wounds may heal and scars may disappear, the internal hurt, anger, and pain still lingers.

Eric Shinseki, Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs assured the audience comprised of Soldiers, Veterans, and their Families that he is doing everything in his power to better accommodate those who have served our Nation and to help heal this pain.

“We’re all astounded by the fight in you. Your stories inspire us to be better at our missions,” he said.

Another story of hope and true sacrifice was from AW2 Veteran CPT Alvin Shell, and his wife, Chilketha. Shell, who was severely wounded in 2004 in Iraq, shared his experience of overcoming the hardest time in his life with the help of his Family, especially his wife.

“When I woke up from the medically-induced coma, I saw my mother, father, and wife. I remember immediately everyone loving me,” he said. “My wife looked at me the same way she did on our wedding day. She accepted me for what I was.”

Shell, who now works as the Force Protection Branch Chief at the Department of Homeland Security, claims he wouldn’t be where he is today without the support and love he received from his wife and the rest of his Family. He emphasized that many wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans may not have the same support structure he did when they return home. Shell urged the audience to lend them a helping hand in any way possible.

“I often think, what would I have done if I didn’t have these people in my life to support me. I’m glad to say I’ll never have to know,” he said. “My question is, who is going to be there to support the other Veterans out there? How many of you are going to hold fast to your commitment to Veterans? We have an obligation to serve those who chose to serve this country.”

As one panelist and student Veteran explained, he felt as though “he was in a room completely surrounded by people who want to help.” But many wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans search for that same feeling of assistance and support when they return home, unable to find it immediately. Still, although the forum gave rise to multiple issues and challenges in the system, I think it also helped in paving the way to hope for many.

AW2 Veteran Alvin Shell To Speak at 2012 Warrior-Family Symposium

AW2 Veteran Alvin Shell’s wife Chilketha supported and encouraged him along his path to recovery.

By Allison Kartachak, WTC Stratcom
Retired U.S. Army CPT and AW2Veteran Alvin Shell, who survived traumatic injuries while stationed in Iraq in 2004, believes that even through the toughest times, a positive attitude, faith, and support from Family can allow one to accomplish anything.

As a living testament to this philosophy, Shell is now the Force Protection Branch Officer at the Department of Homeland Security. However, he isn’t quick to forget that he once faced a time when he wasn’t sure if he would ever work again, let alone survive.

On August 31, 2004, while stationed at Camp Victory in Fallujah, Iraq, Shell and his platoon from the 21st Military Police (Airborne) came to the aid of an American convoy  that was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. In an attempt to rescue his platoon sergeant, SGT Wesley Spaid, who caught on fire from the explosion, Shell threw dirt, hugged, and patted him to try to extinguish the flames.  Covered in gasoline, Shell found himself surrounded by fire and realized he needed to run through the flames to escape.

As a result of this traumatic event, Shell suffered severe burns to more than 33% of his body, in addition to several other injuries, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, chronic pain, and muscle loss. When he received his medical retirement from the Army, he also received a 100% disability rating from the Department of Veterans Affairs but chose to continue to fight to heal and work again because his parents “didn’t teach [him] any other way, but to work.”

After 18 months of rehabilitation and more than 30 surgeries, Shell knows better than many that the road to recovery can sometimes seem never-ending, but he chooses to share his story with others, even as he continues to heal.  He attributes much of his strength to his wife Chilketha for her unwavering support and love through the toughest times as she continued to care for their three sons and him, “a husband who couldn’t feed himself.”

“I admire my wife because she is tough as nails,” said Shell.

In his speeches, Shell also shares details of the challenges he faced in successfully landing a job after his injury, and how he persuaded others that he could meaningfully contribute in the workplace despite his injuries.  He notes how he decided to take the challenge of securing a job by focusing on his abilities rather than his disabilities, and he uses his speeches to inspire wounded, ill and injured Soldiers and Veterans to also accept and ultimately conquer this challenge. Shell also recognizes the importance of reminding employers to make a commitment to hiring Veterans.

Shell and his wife both will be panelists Thursday, September 13, at the 2012 Warrior-Family Symposium at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C.  The 2012 Warrior-Family Symposium (WFS), co-sponsored by the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) and the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA), will provide a forum for expanding on the collective efforts of government and non-government organizations, over the last decade, to improve the physical, psychological and overall well-being of wounded, ill, and injured servicemembers and their Families and Caregivers. Follow the conference on Twitter by searching for hashtag #2012WFS.

For more information on career opportunities for wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans, e-mail usarmy.pentagon.medcom-wtc.mbx.career-education-readiness-br@mail.mil.

Proud of My Army

BG Gen Darryl Williams, Commanding General, Warrior Transition Command, shares a light moment with outgoing AW2 Director COL Greg Gadson, who turned over command to COL Timothy Karcher on June 19, 2012. Both Soldiers lost both legs above the knee during deployment to Iraq and remained in the Army through the Continuation on Active Duty (COAD) program.

By Emily Oehler, WTC Stratcom
I wrestled with how to open this blog. It kept coming out a bit like an odd joke – what do you get with one star, two birds, and four prosthetics? A change of command. But, it’s no joke; it was the inspiring transition of leadership at the Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) yesterday. BG Darryl Williams, Commanding General of the Warrior Transition Command (WTC), oversaw the outgoing AW2 Director COL Greg Gadson and incoming Director COL Tim Karcher—both double above the knee amputees due to combat in Iraq. Even COL Greg Gadson joked that it’s a sad state when the Army can’t find two colonels with both their legs.

For me the proudest moments were
•Getting goose bumps as Candice Barlow Jones sang the national anthem acapella  in her soulful, melodic voice to open the ceremony. Her interpretation came with an insider’s understanding of combat and brought that song to life in a new way for me.
•Looking at BG Williams, flanked on both sides by strong proven leaders who are stepping forward to continue to serve, even though they were stepping on titanium legs. Gadson stepping forward to lead as the incoming Fort Belvoir Garrison Commander, and Karcher to lead AW2—the program which supports the Army’s most severely wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers, Veterans, and Families.
•Closing with Veterans, wounded, Soldiers, past AW2 directors, civilians, andcontractors alike united in the Army song—one team with one mission.

I was proud to be a part of such a landmark event and sincerely proud of my Army. I’m proud of an organization that stands by those who are injured in the line of duty, and then supports their long-term career with the option to continue to serve. As BG Williams stated, these two men were leaders before their injuries, and they still are—their careers were just interrupted while they recovered.

Check out the WUSA TV coverage of the event here.

2012 Warrior Games Opening Ceremony Honors Spirit of Athletes

Mrs. Michelle Obama shares a moment with the 2012 Warrior Games’ torch bearers, British Royal Marine Captain Simon Maxwell and retired Army 1LT Melissa Stockwell, on April 30, at the Olympic Training Center. (Photo by U.S. Army SSG Tracy J. Smith)

By SSG Tracy J. Smith, Fort Stewart Warrior Transition Unit
Mrs. Michelle Obama led the opening ceremony for the third annual Warrior Games at the U.S. Olympic Training Center on April 30.

The Warrior Games is comprised of seven sports; archery, cycling, sitting volleyball, shooting, swimming, track and field, and wheelchair basketball. More than 200 wounded, ill, or injured servicemembers from each branch of service and the U.S. Special Operations Command are competing. The games began with the opening ceremony and continue until May 5.

The ceremony celebrated the resilience of our nation’s wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers,  active duty, reservists, guardsmen, and Veterans  from all branches of military service. This year for the first time, our British allies brought 20-members to compete in exhibition games.

Mrs. Obama and Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, GEN Martin E. Dempsey, applauded the competitors for their courage and for being inspirations.

“Every competitor here has faced adversity that most of us can never imagine,” Mrs. Obama said. “No matter how seriously you are injured, no matter what obstacles or setbacks you face, you just keep moving forward.”

Dempsey commended the service men and women for not succumbing to perceived disabilities.

“For me, these games embody the enduring resilience of our profession,” said Dempsey. “Your commitment to teamwork, and dedication to persevere at these games are the very same qualities that led you to serve our nation. Those qualities don’t go away.”

Retired Army 1LT and 2006 Beijing Paralympian, Melissa Stockwell, gives a celebratory fist pump after lighting the cauldron opening the 2012 Warrior Games at the Olympic Games Center.

Captain Simon Maxwell of the British Royal Marines and retired Army 1LT Melissa Stockwell shared the honor as torchbearers for the opening ceremony.  She was the first female Soldier to lose a limb in Iraq. Stockwell was awarded a Bronze Star and Purple Heart for the loss of her leg in 2004 by an insurgent’s bomb.  Maxwell was deployed to Helmand Province in Afghanistan in April 2011 where he served as a troop commander with Company L. He was wounded in August 2011, while on patrol resulting in the loss of his left leg below the knee.

Both adamantly profess finding a renewed sense of purpose because of their experiences. Stockwell uncovered her Olympian spirit during her rehabilitation at Walter Reed and represented her country in a different uniform during the 2008 Beijing Paralympics swim competition.

Other key speakers on hand to open the ceremony were Scott Blackmun, the U.S. Olympic Committee CEO, and Robin Lineberger, the Deloitte Federal Systems CEO.

The ceremony ended with the playing of each service song and a VIP reception for the athletes and Family members at the Olympic Training Center.

All of the athletic events are being held at the U.S. Air Force Academy, with the exception of shooting, which will take place at the training center.

Injured Women’s Veterans Study Provides Insight and Improvement in AW2 Advocate Care Coordination

By MAJ Faith Junghahn, AW2 Executive Officer
This past year, I had the amazing opportunity to present my graduate degree research study, Transitional Lifecycle Case Management for Injured Women Veterans Assigned to the Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2), at the 117th Association of Military Surgeons of the United States (AMSUS) Karen A. Rieder Research/Federal Nursing Poster Session.

My graduate research was a quality improvement review; a study focused on improving current practice standards. Based on the prescribed Comprehensive Transition Plan (CTP) non-medical case management categories AW2 Advocates reviewed of the women Veterans assigned to AW2 at the time intervals of six, 12, and 24 months during the woman Veteran’s transition and reintegration phases.

For my audit, I designed a logic model based on the Total Force Fitness and Donabedian’sModel of Quality, entitled the “Transitional Lifecycle Case Management Model.”   Using this model provides a unique way of trending the non-medical needs Soldiers and their Families in defining their path towards independence.  Having the model allows for the command and supervisors to report data to leadership and supporting entities in order to best market and obtain resources focused on the Soldier and their Families.

The purpose of the audit was to begin to understand quantitatively and qualitatively-identified transitional care gaps, as delineated by the CTP prescribed non-clinical case management categories, and injured women Veterans’ experiences assigned to AW2 during their transition from the Army to Veteran status.

My study identified a transitional care gap in the non-medical case management category “care coordination”. The gap noticed was in the AW2 Advocate establishing local networks of non-profit and community services that willingly assist medically retired Veterans reintegrating into their communities. I already had an awareness of this gap through my work with AW2, and the findings of my quality improvement study led me to develop an online WTC Resource Center with the assistance of the WTC G-6 SharePoint team and WTC Strategic Communications.

My team designed the resource page using the study model based on the six domains of the CTP: physical, emotional, social, Family, spiritual, and career. The transitional lifecycle case management model aligns the non-clinical case management categories to one on the six CTP domains. The resources are classified using CTP non-clinical categories and listed under the respective CTP domain.

My research and conclusions have demonstrated an unmet need to increase the availability and visibility of warrior care resources and information for severely wounded Veterans, especially women. The WTC Resource Center is structured aligning the resources and information under the comprehensive transition plan’s six domains. When establishing the individualized plan for identified CTP categories, the nurse case manager, squad leader, or AW2 Advocate can quickly discover those community resources closest to the Soldier that have reputably supported medically-retired Veterans’ path to independence within each respective domain.

As Soldiers, Veterans, and Families move from rehabilitation from injuries to reintegration into communities, they will most likely need a particular resource for a short time to meet a specific need. The long-term value of the resource or information resides in both the WTC Warrior Resource Center expanding to list a local network of support accessible by the Triad of Care and AW2 Advocates at military and Veteran facilities across the nation and overseas.

New USO PSA Shows “Portraits” of Real Servicemembers with Invisible Wounds

By Susan Thomas, USO Vice President of Warrior and Family Care, Guest Blogger
Editor’s Note: USO is a member of the AW2 Community Support Network.

Susan Thomas and her husband share their story of dealing with invisible wounds in a new USO public service announcement.

It’s impossible to come back from war, regardless of your exposure to direct combat, and not come back changed. This was not something I widely recognized when my husband, then boyfriend, first deployed to Iraq back in 2003. While he was away, I prayed every night for his return, and return he did, to only deploy again a few months later. He was a communications officer, he would be fine. I kept telling myself that.

He was fine, at least on the outside. Little fights were normal, a lack of focus on our conversation to drift into a memory, that too was normal. Locking the doors, checking the window latches, that became just routine—some would say this hyper-vigilance is just part of serving your nation in the military. As a spouse, you sign up to stand by your servicemember and to support their decision to join the military—whether it was your decision or not. You love your servicemember as a military spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, parent, or best friend.  What is essential to recognize is that you are not alone, and that by connecting with others who have had similar experiences you can see yourself in them, and through their stories and courage you can yourself heal.

When I joined the USO, as the Vice President of USO Warrior and Family Care, I knew I was becoming part of an amazing organization that would not just develop programs and partnerships, but would help build hope and confidence along the recovery journey for wounded, ill and injured troops, their Families and caregivers. Little did I know when I began this journey, that I would build my own hope and confidence and help my husband to regain his own.

Post traumatic stress has been coined as a signature wound of these conflicts over the last decade, and more and more Families are being impacted. Post-traumatic stress does not impact only an individual; it impacts all their loved ones. Seeking assistance whether it is through formal or informal channels is important. My husband and I realized this was an issue, and because of that, we are in an even better position today. This would not be the case if it weren’t for acknowledging his behavior was not normal, and there is nothing wrong with that acknowledgement.

It is for that reason my husband and I participated in the USO Invisible Wounds PSA campaign entitled “Portraits”.   I encourage you to check out the PSA at http://www.uso.org/warriorandfamilycare/and preview the videos that offer a more in-depth look into the lives of those living with invisible wounds, as well as caregivers like myself.

The US Army Marksmanship Unit Paralympic Shooting Team is Expanding

By LTC Scott Wales, Guest Blogger

Editors Note: The expressed comments and views of guest bloggers do not reflect the views of WTC or the United States Army.

For many years, the face of the Army Paralympic shooting effort was SFC Josh Olson. Now, the Army Paralympic shooting team is authorized a dozen shooters to represent the United States in international competition and is in the final steps of adding two more shooters to the squad, with half a dozen more being vetted.

The two new additions to the team are SPC Shanan Lefeat, an arm amputee, and SPC Eric Trueblood, a below the knee amputee.  Lefeat was transferred to the Fort Benning Warrior Transition Battalion (WTB) to train with the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit (USAMU) while Human Resources Command finishes reviewing a medical board’s recommendation that she continue on active duty (COAD). This is a necessary step, because all USAMU members are Soldiers first, competitors second.

Trueblood is a little further back in the recovery and paperwork process, but he is representative of many young Soldiers who learn about the opportunities available for continued service. When asked to describe Trublood’s reaction when he heard about the Paralympic shooting team, long-time USAMU member SFC Bill Keever said, , “His eyes just lit up when he realized there was a way he could remain a Soldier and continue to serve his country.”

Keever continued, “When I visit Walter Reed or the Center for the Intrepid at Brooke Army Medical Center, I explain to wounded Soldiers that they may no longer be on the battlefield, but the battle isn’t over. Their new battle can be against the competition on the shooting range.” For a young Soldier who has only seen an Army at war, where life has been a constant cycle of deploy and refit, deploy and refit, this is a revelation.

Keever noted, “When someone, anyone, lays down behind a rifle to competitively shoot, the focus required to do that task seems to block out any of the other issues they may be dealing with. Every Soldier comes to us with motivation and basic rifle marksmanship skills. We believe that with the coaching and other resources available at the USAMU we can take them as far as their talent will allow. It took three years for SFC Olson to reach world class level, but that entire time—and for years to come—he will represent the Army and the United States in a positive way.”

He summed up his recruiting efforts in this way, “I don’t hire people with disabilities. I hire people with ability. The USAMU is interested in people who are motivated and willing to train hard to represent their country as a world class athlete.”

The USAMU sends out representatives and training teams to work with wounded warriors on a regular basis. Those interested in competing at a high level in either the Paralympics or the upcoming Warrior Games in May are encouraged to make this known to their chain of command. More information on the USAMU is at www.usamu.com.

CPT Alvin Shell Continues to Serve – Just in a Different Uniform

Retired Army CPT Alvin Shell was burned over 30 percent of his body as he rescued a fellow Soldier from a burning vehicle. He has successfully transitioned as a federal employee of the Dept. of Homeland Security and shared his story with the Wounded Warrior Employment Conference attendees at the Fort Belvoir Officer’s Club on February 28.

By Erich Langer, WTC Public Affairs
Retired Army CPT Alvin Shell has been overcoming obstacles all his life. Since being severely injured in Iraq in 2005, one would think that overcoming the big obstacles would be behind him.  For Shell, an Army Wounded Warrior Program  (AW2) Veteran, there were more obstacles to navigate.

With too many injures to count, his Family held vigil throughout his recovery, knowing he would wake from his coma, that he’d talk again,  walk again, and do much, much, more.

He had severe burn injuries over many parts of his body; broken bones and invisible behavioral health wounds.  It would be easy for someone in Shell’s place to take the easy road.  But for Shell, such a path was not part of his mettle.

“When I awoke from that coma, my Family was there; my mom, my dad and my wife were all with me.  I’ll never forget the first words out of my dad’s mouth. ‘Son, you’re a hero,’” he said.

Hearing Shell explain his injuries was difficult for many attending the Wounded Warrior Employment Conference hosted at the Fort Belvoir Officers’ Club. The skin grafting processes he routinely went through for more than two years was arduous—the excruciating and continuous pain he suffered was just as difficult.

“The doctors would remove my damaged skin and muscle tissue and then replace the burned skin with skin tissue harvested from other parts of my body” said Shell. “Doctors would remove the undamaged skin with a tool similar to a wood planning machine you’d find in a wood working shop. They’d take the ‘good skin’ and stretch it tight, then staple it to the area needing replacement skin.”

In many ways, securing employment was every bit as challenging as the recovery process.  Finding a job to support his Family was essential.  Shell attacked the employment process with gusto. “I filled out more than 100 federal job applications—I also got more than 100 rejection letters.”  The young man with a bachelor’s degree, an Army commission, a wife, three kids, and two dogs had no job.  After two years in Army hospitals, he was ready to show employers what he could do.

“I run four miles a day, don’t tell me what I can’t do!”

When hired at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), there were more obstacles to maneuver. “I think when I was hired at DHS, people thought I would sit dutifully at my desk and folks in the agency would come by and express their appreciation for my service and my contribution to my country—that would be about it. Well, I’m not made that way; I had much more to contribute than sitting behind a desk and being recognized!”

Shell would get away from that desk, go to meetings, and ask questions, lots of questions, of his fellow DHS employees.   It wasn’t uncommon for Shell to invite himself to meetings and briefings where he served as a voice for wounded Veterans and their capabilities.

But obstacles persisted.

“I learned from my first-line supervisor that I wasn’t being considered for a position because I was blind, couldn’t run, and couldn’t shoot,” he said with a smirk. “I quickly put that to rest. I’ve got 20/20 vision in one eye and even better in the other. And running, well all that was required was completing a 1.5 mile run…I could do that without getting out of bed.”

By stepping up and making a strong case for himself, he soon found himself off to Georgia to attend federal law enforcement training. He graduated with high marks and for a guy who couldn’t shoot, he’d notch the class’s best shooting scores.

“I learned to shoot left-handed and qualified on the M-4 and nine millimeter pistol,” said Shell. “It is all about confidence in your abilities and in some instances retraining yourself.  I shot tops in my class.”

Now a supervisor at DHS, Shell has hired eight or nine individuals – 85% have been Veterans. Today, he has a better understanding of the hiring practices from the hiring managers’ perspective.

“I can’t be more proud of what all these folks at the Wounded Warrior Employment Conference are doing in the federal and civilian sector to hire wounded Soldiers and Veterans,” said Shell.  “I’m equally proud of what this conference can do for our service members and Veterans as they learn methods to make themselves more marketable and ultimately employable. I’m so proud of each and every one of you for assisting with employment.”

My father and grandfather were both Veterans, but programs like the ones we have today weren’t around then.  I never knew about all the initiatives available until I needed them,” Shell said. “I make it a point to encourage all Veterans seeking employment to learn as much as they can about a prospective employer.  Get on the phone and call all those 1-800 numbers at USA Jobs and talk to people. You’ve got to be persistent.”

He interviewed for his DHS job while he was recuperating in bed—he didn’t let that stop him.  Shell searched the Internet and learned as much about the agency, division, and branch, as well as supervisors and personnel that worked there.

“You have to be able to sell yourself. I told the three-person interview panel that I could do anything they wanted me to do in Homeland Security…I just didn’t know what they wanted me to do.”

Today, Alvin Shell knows what he is doing and is reaching out to Soldiers, Veterans and hiring mangers to assist all who need help getting a job or learning about the process.

Hats off to Shell and other passionate wounded warriors assisting their fellow comrades in arms.

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