Fourth of July… One of my Favorite Times of the Year

By BG Darryl A. Williams, WTC Commander

BG Darryl A. Williams


Today, we celebrate Independence Day—our Nation’s 235th birthday. As we enjoy all the traditions and pleasures of this uniquely American holiday, I would hope that every American would take a few minutes to remember those who have done so much to secure and safeguard our independence throughout our history. Without their sacrifice we would not be a free people reaping the benefits of the gift of freedom for which they paid so dearly.

Today, more than 200,000 Americans in uniform are deployed in harm’s way, protecting us. Their steadfast service is a continual reminder that defending our nation is a pursuit that requires persistent, diligent and disciplined commitment each and every day. Our men and women in uniform are always on watch, whether it be in Afghanistan, Iraq or a dusty lonely outpost halfway across the globe.

America’s military consists of about one-half of one percent of the American population! Yes, less than one in every 100 Americans wear the uniform of an active or reserve component member.  What a burden each carries on behalf of every single American.

We can’t thank these heroes enough for their service.

I am privileged and honored to serve as the commander of the Warrior Transition Command, a command that touches and impacts the lives of so many of our wounded, ill and injured Soldiers.  As we all team together for our Soldiers, Veterans and Families, I think of the essential services the men and women of WTC—military and civilian—provide for our wounded, ill and injured. It makes me pause and reflect. The nurse, the squad leader, the doctor, the platoon sergeant, and the other professionals create one team to support our wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers.

In America, we love to celebrate our nation’s birth, independence and freedom. From the hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill to the potato salad that adorns most backyard picnic tables it’s the sounds, smells and sights I love so much. And who can’t be touched by the parades in small and large towns filled with beautiful red white and blue colors that drape lamp posts and parade stands across our land. But my personal favorites are the small American flags that our Veteran Service Organizations, Boy Scouts and thousands of other groups plant in the ground of yards and cemeteries.

And who isn’t moved by our Veterans from past wars and conflicts raising the American flag in their yard followed by an enthusiastic salute.

Man, that really gets me!

The emotions I feel from such symbols can’t be totally explained but I feel such a sense of patriotism when I see our wonderful country come together and celebrate freedom. When I see Americans of all colors, creeds, shapes and sizes celebrate our Independence, I stand up a little taller and walk with a newfound purpose as my heart swells a bit.  My eyes mist and I get a chill. No doubt, you’ve felt it too—I know it isn’t unique to me!

Please remember—always remember—that freedom isn’t free.  The gains of 235 years can be quickly lost if we do not maintain our steadfast commitment and resolve. The responsibility it takes to retain the rights our Citizen Soldiers throughout our history fought so hard to attain can be lost.  Those Minutemen who rose with their muskets, pitchforks and grit against a formidable and seemingly unbeatable military force are an enduring example for today’s service members.

Today we are engaged in a struggle as great as any America has faced throughout her long and honored history. It is a struggle every bit as much a fight for freedom as the war that was fought in 1776. Once again it is a battle for humanity, for the rights of all people—not just Americans—to live in a world free of terror and fear.

God bless and happy birthday America.

Warrior Games Showcases Qualities of All Soldiers

By BG Darryl Williams, WTC Commander

Army Warrior Games wheelchair basketball team during the national anthem at Thursday’s game.

We’re in the middle of Warrior Games, and I think it’s important to take a minute to recognize the qualities of the Soldiers competing here this week—90 Soldiers and Army Veterans who represent the Army’s wounded, ill, and injured population.

For one thing, they’re representing the true strength of the Army. I was particularly proud to watch them beat the Marines at wheelchair basketball on Monday, 39-24. And the Marines were the defending gold medalists.

The Warrior Games is an aspirational model that showcases the resilient spirit of every Soldier in today’s force. And it represents a bigger piece of the whole approach to Army warrior care. You see, it’s important that each Soldier heals in all dimensions of life: physical, social, spiritual, emotional, Family, and career. Soldiers in WTUs develop a Comprehensive Transition Plan (CTP) that encompasses each of those dimensions. And that CTP is a contract between the Soldier and him or herself. Physical is the focus this week, but the athletes’ accomplishments also help them understand their abilities and unlimited potential in every aspect of life.

The Warrior Games athletes here this week are giving their maximum effort to compete. They won’t all be on the medal stand, but they’re all champions. You see, they all set goals for their training—to run faster, to hit the target, to get up when their wheelchair falls over. What we’re seeing here is a manifestation of what all wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans do every day: they come to terms with their injuries and focus on the future. And that’s true of all Soldiers, whatever the challenge.

CPT Lisa Merwin, who’s competing this week in cycling and swimming, put it well. “None of us want to be defined by our injury or our illness. We’re all fighters,” she said. “Whether we’re Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine, we speak to being survivors and being fighters and persevering. And that’s just the military way.”

Once a Soldier, always a Soldier. And these Soldiers and Veterans didn’t develop this resilient spirit when they became wounded, ill, or injured—it was in them all along. Soldiers are prepared to face whatever challenges life throws at them, whether it be a target at the Warrior Games archery competition, the enemy down range, or learning to walk again. Soldiers step up and complete the mission. And that’s what we’re seeing this week—the Army values in action.

You can watch the medal rounds for wheelchair basketball and sitting volleyball live online:

  • Friday, May 20: Wheelchair basketball bronze & gold medal games, 6:30 p.m. MT
  • Saturday, May 21: Sitting volleyball bronze & gold medal games, 1:00 p.m. MT


Warrior Games Athletes Inspire

By BG Darryl Williams, WTC Commander

I’ve had a fantastic time at the Warrior Games. These Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen, Coast Guardsmen, and members of Special Ops inspire everyone at the Olympic Training Center. And they’re all full of pride too.

My favorite event so far was the wheelchair basketball prelim I watched tonight—probably because basketball’s my favorite sport. It’s incredible to watch these athletic men and women, and don’t think it’s a light game just because they’re in wheelchairs. The clock keeps going if they fall out of the chair, and the ref even called a technical foul because one team had too many players on the court. The Army won Wednesday, 49–12, and they’re ready to take on the Marines again in the next round.

And the whole Army team is like this. They’re focused on their abilities and demonstrating how much they can achieve. If they fall off the bike, they get right back up. If they stumble coming off the blocks, they just run faster and harder to make up for it. They don’t shy away from taking on a new sport—we’ve got Soldiers competing in swimming who just learned to swim. All of the Soldier athletes here this week recognize that their physical accomplishments are one part of their total recovery, and that they must bring the same level of discipline to the emotional, spiritual, Family, career, and social aspects of their lives.

Warrior Games demonstrates the resilience of every wounded, ill, and injured servicemember, and each athlete here is a champion, regardless of whether they win medals. I know they’ve inspired me, and they’ll continue to excel throughout the rest of the week.

The 2011 Warrior Games—Inspiration for all Wounded, Ill, and Injured

By BG Darryl Williams, WTC Commander

WTC Commander BG Darryl Williams (center) and CSM Benjamin Scott, Jr. (right) stand proud with three Army Warrior Games athletes (SGT Robbie Gaupp, CPT Lisa Merwin, and SFC Landon Ranker).

Monday brought the official start of the 2011 Warrior Games.  I had the honor to speak to these outstanding athletes and express how inspirational they are to their fellow wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans. The Warrior Games is an important element of the Army’s Warrior Care and Transition Program, and every one of these athletes who worked hard to be here in Colorado.

The Warrior Games provide an outlet for our Army wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans to demonstrate how they can achieve their physical and mental goals. They are also one of the many ways wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans can apply what they learned on the playing field to the next phase of their journey post-injury, whether they return to the force or move on to civilian life.

The importance of the Warrior Games is monumental for every warrior because they are not only showing each other how competitive and motivated they are, but they are showing the world that an injury or an amputation does not erase their goals and aspirations.

As the Warrior Games continue this week, I’m sure the hard work and determination of each athlete will pay off. Regardless of whether the Army Warrior Games teams win gold or not, I know every athlete will do their best and will give a top-notch performance.

I salute the Army’s Warrior Games athletes, and am proud to say that they exemplify the words—Army Strong!

A Story of Resilience–Wounded Warrior Family in New Army Video

By BG Darryl A. Williams, WTC Commander  

Retired SSG Shilo and Kathreyn Harris hope that by sharing their Families’ experiences from point of injury through recovery in a new Army resiliency video that they can help other wounded warriors.

Throughout my more than 25 years in the Army, I have met some amazing Soldiers—many of whom have an equally impressive spouse supporting them. Today, I want to introduce to you one remarkable couple, retired SSG Shilo and Kathreyn Harris. 

Each one, in their own right, truly embodies “Army Strong”:

  • On February, 19, 2007, during his second deployment to Iraq, the vehicle SSG Harris was traveling in was struck by an improvised explosive device (IED), killing three Soldiers, wounding the driver, and leaving SSG Harris with third degree burns on 35% of his body. Due to the severity of his burns, SSG Harris lost his ears, tip of his nose, three fingers, and he sustained fractures to his left collar bone and C-7 vertebrae. Of his experience he states, “I actually consider myself a stronger person now, a better person because I don’t take so much for granted. I feel like I’m a better father, I feel like I’m a better role model for my Family because of the things that I’ve pushed myself to do and accomplished. And, other Soldiers have that. They have it. All they have to do is tap into it and use it.” Since retiring, Shilo became an Outreach Coordinator for the Wounded Warrior Project. 
  • So that Shilo could recover at home, Kathreyn became Shilo’s primary caregiver spending up to six hours a day on his wound care. Additionally, she was mom to their daughter and stepmom to his three sons. During his recovery, she became an Advocate for the Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) to support other wounded warriors at Brooke Army Medical Center. She explains, “We both try to give back to the community, to give back to the military community as well as the civilian community, and help bring awareness to not just people injured like Shilo physically but the ones that are mentally injured as well.”

Shilo and Kathreyn are not unlike most of the 8,000 severely wounded, ill, or injured Soldiers, Veterans, and Families the Army supports through our Warrior Care and Transition Program. They each have a story to tell, a story of resilience

I encourage you to take time and get to know Shilo and Kathreyn either in person, or through the new video “Warriors in Transition:  A Story of Resilience,” Warrior Transition Command created. Once you have, I am confident they will either change or reinforce  your perspective on service to country, marital strength, and overcoming adversity. This video is them, in their own words. Their fear, pain, fights, tears, counseling, accomplishments, and joys. This nine-part, 30-minute video covers their injury and evacuation, medical treatment, marital challenges, coping with children, emotional recovery, and future goals. They left nothing out.

You can watch or download the video  from the U.S. Army Warrior Transition Command’s website.

Highlighting Employment At Wounded Warrior Federal Employment Conference

By BG Darryl Williams, WTC Commander

WTC Commander BG Darryl Williams told attendees that the goal of the 2011 Wounded Warrior Federal Employment Conference is to increase the hiring of wounded warriors by federal employers.

This morning, I spoke to more than 150 federal officials from nearly 30 federal agencies at the 2011 Wounded Warrior Federal Employment Conference. This is an historic event—the first of its kind. Each branch of the military came together to highlight the importance of hiring wounded Veterans among the federal government, and we charged each of these agencies with hiring at least three wounded warriors this year.

Employment is a key piece of my strategic vision for the Warrior Transition Command. Whether Soldiers return to the force or transitions to civilian life, we want them to have a position that aligns with their ranks, skills, interests, and abilities. Sometimes, wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers are able to do the same job they did before. Other times, we need to retrain them for a different position.

It’s the same when they transition from the force. If Veterans need training for a new position, the government provides the GI Bill or the Veterans Affairs’ Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program, and many other resources.

At this conference, we’re asking federal employers to give wounded Veterans a chance to succeed. Wounded Veterans make great employees, given their military training, respect for authority, and a “do-what-it-takes” attitude. Just because someone is injured or has physical or behavioral health challenges doesn’t mean they’re not capable of performing well. Employment gives people a mission and a purpose, something they can be proud of, and a chance to succeed.

At Warrior Transition Units (WTUs), we’re all about goals, about “Soldier Success Through Focused Commitment.” And the other services look at this closely too. We sit down with Soldiers and work with them closely to establish short- and long-term goals through the Comprehensive Transition Plan, and “career” goals are one area we look at very closely. Soldiers work with occupational therapists and transition coordinators; they do internships and worksite placements to develop skills and prepare for the next stage of their careers.

So this conference isn’t about asking government agencies to just put a bunch of people on the payroll, but to actively look for opportunities to place qualified Veterans into positions where they have a lot to offer.

If you’re a federal agency—or even private sector—employer and you’d like to learn more about hiring wounded Veterans, contact

Time to Increase Federal Hiring of Wounded Warriors

By COL Greg Gadson, AW2 Director

Representatives from the joint services' wounded warrior programs host the Wounded Warrior Federal Employment Conference. (left to right) CAPT Adrian Nicholas (Wounded Warrior Regiment), CDR Shauna Hamilton (Navy Safe Harbor), BG Darryl Williams (Warrior Transition Command), COL Rick Dickinson (Warrior Transition Command), LTC David Bringhurst (Air Force Wounded Warrior Program), and COL Gregory Gadson (Army Wounded Warrior Program).

Yesterday, I had the privilege of kicking off the 2011 Wounded Warrior Federal Employment Conference. Approximately 125 people from nearly 30 federal agencies came to this event at Fort Belvoir, VA.

This is an important, historic event—the first of its kind. It represents a collaboration among the four service wounded warrior programs, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Labor, and the Office of Personnel Management—all of these organizations are coming together to make this issue a priority and to proactively work with agencies throughout the government to increase federal hiring of wounded warriors.

The goal of these two days is to educate federal agencies about the importance of hiring wounded, ill, and injured Veterans and the tools they can use to do so. In fact, I challenged each agency present to hire at least one wounded warrior this year. We also made sure they were aware of the broad range of injuries facing today’s Veterans from post-traumatic stress disorder to traumatic brain injury to amputation and more. Lt. Col. Robinson from the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injuries explained specific ways employers can accommodate these injuries, and human resources professionals from each of the military services discussed their best practices for hiring wounded warriors.

I thought CAPT Bernie Carter, Director of Navy Safe Harbor, did a good job in summing up the role of the service wounded warrior programs in this process. “We all have a responsibility to help wounded warriors transition successfully. If we can’t get them back to active duty, we want to set them up for a successful transition and reintegration, and employment is a big piece of that.”

In fact, all of the services echoed that sentiment—we want Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen to live robust, successful lives, and employment allows the wounded, ill, or injured Veterans to provide for themselves and their Families, but equally important, they feel a sense of pride in accomplishing a mission, contributing to a team, and achieving their goals.

AW2 Veteran Alvin Shell also moved the crowd over lunch, by explaining his personal success story with the crowd, from his point of injury to his transition, where he found a place to achieve his career goals at the Department of Homeland Security. I encourage you to read more about his story on other AW2 blog posts.

I’m looking forward to the rest of the conference today, and I hope you’ll check back to the AW2 blog to learn more about what else we accomplish.

Joint Services Host Conference to Increase Wounded Warrior Hiring

By Emily Oehler, WTC Stratcom

Joint services’ wounded warrior programs unite to increase federal hiring of wounded warriors. (left to right) CAPT Adrian Nicholas (Wounded Warrior Regiment), CDR Shauna Hamilton (Navy Safe Harbor), BG Darryl Williams (Warrior Transition Command), COL Rick Dickinson (Warrior Transition Command), LTC David Bringhurst (Air Force Wounded Warrior Program), and COL Gregory Gadson (Army Wounded Warrior Program).

For many, hiring is about processes. Managing one if you’re in Human Resources (HR). Or working one, if you’re looking for a job. But yesterday, it was about something more—it was about wounded warriors.

For the first time, the joint services’ wounded warrior programs united around the single mission: Increase the hiring of wounded warriors throughout the federal workforce through the education and engagement of agency HR managers, Veterans Employment Program Officers, and Equal Employment Office disability program managers.

Attending the two-day Wounded Warrior Federal Employment Conference were more than 125 representatives from nearly 30 federal agencies—all of whom agreed to hire one wounded warrior in the next year.

COL Greg Gadson, Army Wounded Warrior Program Director, told conference participants, “We need to increase the hiring of wounded warriors in the federal work place. Bottom line, wounded warriors want to continue to serve and they don’t give up. That’s who you want on your work force.”

The presence of wounded warriors, those looking for a job and those who successfully transitioned to a career post retirement, brought the conference to life for attendees. The lunch keynote speaker, severely burned wounded warrior and current DHS employee retired CPT Alvin Shell, said, “When you shake a wounded warriors hand, look down and know that’s it’s a hand of sacrifice and service.” Adding, “We have to decipher our Soldier’s ingrained skills and give them opportunities. Focus on our abilities, not our disabilities.”

Conference speakers included Dr. Clifford Stanley, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, Jonathon Young, National Council on Disability, The Honorable Ray Jefferson, Assistant Secretary for Veterans Employment and Training Services/Department of Labor, and representatives from Navy Safe Harbor, Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Regiment, Air Force Wounded Warrior Program, Army Civilian Human Resources Agency, Naval Sea Systems Command and the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Brain Injury.

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