Resiliency and How Local Organizations Can Support Wounded Warriors

By Patty Sands, WTC Stratcom

Last week, the AW2 Community Support Network held its first 2011 quarterly conference call. During the call, participants from across the country discussed the various aspects of resiliency and how to view resiliency from a variety of perspectives. Facilitating the call was AW2 Director COL Greg Gadson, who provided insight into the areas of resiliency he felt Community Support Network organizations should target in their support of wounded warriors. COL Gadson stated, “There are five aspects of resiliency that play into recovery: spiritual, social, emotional, physical, and financial.” COL Gadson then asked, “Where does your organization fit in?”

In preparation to that question, AW2 Community Support Network organizations were asked to send in a statement on how they support resiliency. I found many of them compelling and wanted to share with you one that spoke to each area of resiliency.

Financial—Sew Much Comfort, “…provides free adaptive clothing to support the unique needs of our wounded service members…we have distributed more than 95,000 pieces of adaptive clothing.”

Social—Pets for Patriots, “…supports resiliency by giving service and Veteran members of the U.S. military a renewed sense of purpose through the companionship of adopted pets.”

Physical—U.S. Olympic Committee Paralympic Military Program, “…supports wounded, ill and injured service members by using sport to enhance the rehabilitation process.”

Emotional—Air Compassion for Veterans, ”…we help support, fortify and create a resilient format for our wounded and their families to be able to integrate into productive lives dealing with their new limitations.  We have flown over 18,000 flights so far making sure they can access these services.”

Spiritual—Irunforgod, “…helps [wounded, injured, and ill] achieve their personal, social, spiritual, and professional goals by providing them with a life transforming experience.”

Each quote demonstrates that organizations provide multiple types of support that strengthen wounded warrior resiliency. Although It is hard to categorize these resources, each phase of recovery needs different types of support for both wounded warriors and their Families.

In conclusion, COL Gadson said, “There are great resources available to assist wounded warriors and their Families. Our goal is to have them connect.” And that, is our goal.

If you know of an organization that also supports wounded warriors in their local communities, please point them to the AW2 Community Support Network Web page or email recommendations at

The USO’s Selfless Leadership

By COL Greg Gadson, AW2 Director

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Work To Do”—AW2 Annual Training Wraps Up

By COL Greg Gadson, AW2 Director

AW2 Advocates show team spirit at the 2011 AW2 Annual Training Conference.

We’ve had a great week here at AW2 Annual Training. We’ve worked hard this week to learn about additional resources and benefits available to AW2 Soldiers, Veterans, and Families. And taking this time was important—it’s an opportunity to enhance the services we provide to the AW2 population.

And we’ve still got work to do. Now, it’s time for us to all go home and get down to business and continue serving. The Advocates are leaving Texas with renewed energy and a renewed sense of pride in their work. And a renewed dedication to making a difference in the lives of AW2 Soldiers, Veterans, and Families.

Like the Advocates, I’m returning to the office with a renewed focus.  They’ve given me a lot of feedback and suggestions to improve the program. I’m going to take some time and review a lot of their ideas and then actively look into ways to support them in their jobs, as they support wounded warriors.

This was the first time I met a lot of the Advocates. I’ve met many of them in my first few months as AW2 Director, but having them here together was incredible. I was really inspired by so many of their personal stories and their dedication to serving wounded warriors.  They remind me a lot of my troops in combat—they’re committed to the mission, whatever the cost. And here, at AW2, it’s a duty of compassion.

As an AW2 Soldier who serves all AW2 Soldiers, I am grateful for the Advocates and the service they provide every single day. And I’m grateful that they’ll continue to provide quality, personalized support to AW2 Soldiers, Veterans, and Families.

WTC Commander Listens to Local Dallas Wounded Warriors Talk About Life Post-Injury

By Alan Morales, WTC Stratcom

(left to right) WTC Commander BG Darryl A. Williams, AW2 Director COL Greg Gadson, and AW2 Sergeant Major SGM Robert Gallagher listen to participant questions at the 2011 AW2 Annual Training Conference.

Yesterday morning, I witnessed BG Darryl A. Williams give a keynote speech to a group of Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) Advocates and other guests in Dallas, TX. During this speech he motivated and energized staff to continue excelling in their efforts to better serve the Army’s wounded, ill, and injured. However, it was only a few moments after his speech that I witnessed BG Williams enter a much a smaller room, take the microphone off, and take a seat at a table with seven wounded warriors from the local Dallas area. This time around, BG Williams was the one doing the listening.

The luncheon took place on day two of the 2011 AW2 Advocate Annual Training–an event where 170+ Advocates nationwide have convened to train and collaborate to better provide individualized support to the Army’s severely wounded, ill, and injured. Making a stop to address the attendees, BG Williams made it a priority to also take the opportunity to meet local wounded warriors.

During the luncheon, BG Williams, along with AW2 Director COL Greg Gadson and AW2 Sergeant Major SGM Robert Gallagher, listened to wounded warriors explain various challenges, such as Social Security benefits claims, difficulties in continuing on active duty, and the difficulties involved with civilian integration. The discussion served as a mechanism for BG Williams to better understand both new and persistent issues that face the wounded warrior population.

After hours of taking notes and posing questions to his guests, BG Williams concluded the luncheon by sharing with the table a few words that resonated with the group. BG Williams said, “I regularly speak to officials at the Department of Defense, Department of the Army, Congress, and various others in Washington. I’m here to tell you that it’s not worth a can of beans unless I connect with the Soldier to understand how what I do in Washington affects him or her.”

Feedback isn’t limited to the walls of a conference room. It continues in the virtual world. Share with us your thoughts about the Army’s warrior care programs. Whether you are in a Warrior Transition Unit, Community-Based Warrior Transition Unit, or a Veteran, share with us your thoughts by posting a comment below.

2011 AW2 Annual Training Starts Strong

By COL Greg Gadson, AW2 Director

AW2 Director COL Greg Gadson gives opening remarks at the 2011 AW2 Advocate Annual Training in Dallas, TX.

Today was the first day of AW2 Annual Training. The AW2 Advocates from around the country and most of the headquarters staff are gathered in Dallas, TX, to spend a week sharpening our skills, expanding our networks, and learning more about resources–all to enhance the services we provide to AW2 Soldiers, Veterans, and Families, and to make sure they continue to build their team spirit and to enhance their collaboration.

This year’s theme is “Path to Independence.” As I explained to the Advocates, “independence” means something different to every single Soldier and Veteran in this program. It’s about getting to a place where you’re living a full life, in spite of your injury, and fully embracing your new normal. And for each of us, it happens slowly, over time–there’s not an “aha” moment or benchmark where you’re suddenly independent. Sure, there are big steps, like learning to walk again on your prosthetics or leaving the hospital or separating from the Army. But there are also small steps, like when a Soldier with a TBI remembers something important that wasn’t written down, or a Veteran calls the VA to make his/her own medical appointment.

This week, I’ll be working with the Advocates to make sure they’re supporting you–the Soldiers and Veterans–in fostering your independence. To help you take ownership of your lives and your futures, and to always know that AW2 is here to support you. We’re just a phone call away.

Check back to the blog throughout the week for more updates about how the Advocates are learning to serve you better.

Calling AW2 Soldiers, Veterans, and Family members to Attend the 2011 AW2 Symposium

By COL Greg Gadson, AW2 Director

Attention AW2 Soldiers, Veterans, and Family members. AW2 is now accepting applications for delegates to attend this year’s AW2 Symposium in Orlando, FL, on July 17-22, at the Rosen Centre Hotel.  As a delegate, you will identify and develop recommendations regarding current issues impacting the health, recovery, rehabilitation, transition, and welfare of AW2 Soldiers, Veterans, Family members, and caregivers. These recommendations will be forwarded through the Army Family Action Plan (AFAP) for potential presentation to senior Army leadership.

No other branch in the Armed Services has a similar process. Your participation in the AW2 Symposium has the potential to shape legislation and policies affecting wounded, ill, and injured, warriors from every branch of service. You don’t have to take my word for it. Read more about last year’s AW2 Symposium and the 3 issues that were included in the “Top 5 AFAP Conference Issues” at the 2011 Worldwide Conference in February.

Working through these issues requires a great deal of time and focus. To assist AW2 Symposium delegates, AW2 will offer daycare for children under 6 and will team up with the National Military Family Association (NMFA) to host Operation Purple®—an urban adventure camp for children ages six to seventeen. Delegates will also enjoy an AW2 Community Support Network exhibit hall, Family Night, and many other exciting events.

I highly encourage you to submit an issue and apply to become a delegate. If you would like more information or have questions about the AW2 Symposium, please contact your AW2 Advocate, visit, or call (877) 393-9058.

Agency Officials Called to be a Vision for Wounded Warriors’ Dreams

By Julie O’Rourke, WTC Stratcom

(left to right) Assistant Secretary of Labor Ray Jefferson reunites with COL Gadson, his West Point classmate, at the Wounded Warrior Federal Employment Conference, after inspiring the crowd with a charge to make a difference in the lives of others.

Agency officials are “called to be a vision for wounded warriors’ dreams,” said The Honorable Ray Jefferson, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Veterans Employment and Training Services (VETS) at the Wounded Warriors Federal Employment Conference Wednesday.  Jefferson charged agency officials to do work they will be proud of, quoting a poem by Linda Ellis, “The Dash.”

I read of a man who stood to speak
At the funeral of a friend.
He referred to the dates on her tombstone
From the beginning to the end. 

He noted that first came the date of her birth
And spoke of the following date with tears,
But he said what mattered most of all
Was the dash between those years.

Fifteen years ago, Jefferson saw the course of his life change in a moment: a defective hand grenade made the tell-tale poof sound that it was about to explode.  He had Soldiers on each side and chose to hold the grenade to protect his colleagues.  He lost all five fingers on his left hand.  When his parents picked him up from the hospital, his first meal out was Chinese food.  The message in his fortune cookie read: “What began as a curse can become a blessing.” 

Jefferson charges each agency official to be that power in a wounded warrior’s life, showing some who may have lost hope how what has been a curse might be a blessing in the future.  “The death of a dream can be the birth of a destiny.”  Jefferson asked the audience to nurture those dreams in others and bring them to light, “your lives are the candles that will light the way for a wounded warrior’s dreams to come true.”

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.

Page 1 of 212»

Write a blog for WTC

Warriors in Transition can submit a blog by e-mailing WarriorCareCommunications [at]