AW2 Family Continues to Serve Country and Wounded

By Emily Oehler, WTC Stratcom
Every time I talk with Gina Hill on the phone, I feel better. When I look at pictures of her kids, I smile. When I hear about her wounded husband’s progress, I am thankful. When I hear that they are receiving a new home in a place that is less disruptive for Allen’s PTSD, I am comforted. When I learned that Gina started a non-profit to help build stronger community connections between emergency responders, servicemembers, and local support programs, I am amazed. Knowing this combat-wounded Family makes we want to be a better person and do more!

AW2 spouse Gina Hill starts non-profit, Silent Siren, to build support community for Soldiers, Veterans, and Families facing PTSD. Photo Courtesy of Mike Parker

Allen Hill was serving in Iraq in 2007 when his truck was hit by an improvised explosive device (IED).  At the 2010 AW2 Symposium press conference, Gina said, “While the majority of Allen’s physical, or visible, wounds have healed, our Family still struggles daily with the psychological wounds. Often times, these are called the invisible wounds, but I have a hard time calling them that, for they are very visible to anyone who spends any amount of time with him.”

Like most Army Families, the Hills never give up.

The Hills worked at the AW2 Symposium (link) to help the Army identify areas of improvement for warrior care—and provide recommendations. Gina Hill presented to Congress  for Mental Illness Awareness Month to increase awareness of the impact of PTSD on the entire Family. And now, they are launching Silent Siren, already a member of the Community Support Network.

The mission of Silent Siren is to build strong community collaborations that enhance and expand existing community crisis intervention/supports for military service individuals and their Families. They believe that the following actions and approaches will help achieve this mission:

• Empower persons supporting an individual with PTSD to utilize local emergency support services
• Educate emergency support personnel and military Families and caregivers about PTSD and the fundamental approaches to responding to PTSD crisis situations.
• Engage local community counseling & support resources that can be readily available to navigate Family members and caregivers through crisis situations.

Silent Siren consists of 3 core elements:

1. Establishment of a PTSD registry for community members with PTSD and market the registry to each participating community.
2. Utilization of Silent Siren to help train emergency services personnel on effective emergency response approaches when responding to PTSD crisis intervention calls.
3. Implement, with the assistance of Silent Siren, a Family/caregiver support system. This system should include professional mental health resources available to respond alongside and emergency responder to help a Family navigate the complexities of a mental health/PTSD crisis situation.

You can get to know the Hill Family a bit tonight, Friday, November 4, on Extreme Home Makeover. Knowing them will show you firsthand how dynamic our Soldiers, Veterans, and Families are—to heed the call to serve in a time of war, and continue to give back once wounded.


By Emily Oehler, WTC Stratcom

(left to right) WTC Commander BG Darryl A. Williams talks with COAD Soldier SFC Jonathan Grundy (with his service dog) at the AW2 COAD/COAR Forum.

Over the past several years, I have become a “wounded warrior junkie.”  If I go too long without meeting one or hearing their story, I need a fix.  While many might find this odd—to find enjoyment from listening to stories of Soldier’s worst days and life-altering injuries—I find it humbling and inspiring.

Until I started working with the Army, I, like many Americans, took Soldiers for granted.  Yes, I respected them.  Yes, I recognized their sacrifice.  Yes, I appreciated their willingness to serve.  But no, I didn’t get really get it.  I do now.

In my experience, Soldiers don’t like to talk about themselves—especially those who have been wounded or injured.  To most, it’s just part of their job.  A moment in their career.  Nearly normal.  To me, it’s an honor to listen to how men and women performed their job to the best of their ability, in some cases putting themselves in harm’s way to save others.  To hear how the team came first—before the one.  To listen to the medical miracles that walk amongst us.  To learn about the big goals they set and achieve.  It’s real life history direct from the source.  It’s amazing.

Recently, I was fortunate enough to interview 17 COAD/COAR Soldiers.  Soldiers who continued on active duty/reserve after being found unfit for duty as a result of being combat wounded or injured.  As SFC Jarrett Jongema told me, “We all have a story to tell.”  Here are highlights from a few:

  • “We were the Cavalry for the Cavalry,” explained National Guardsman SGT Tony Wood of his unit in Iraq at Camp Shield.  In 2005 a daisy-chain of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), an explosively formed penetrator (EFP), and two grenades exploding inside his vehicle, wiped out his entire crew and severely injured him (45 days in a coma and 25 surgeries).  “The biggest thing for me is that my team is gone—that still hangs me up.  I promised to bring them home.”  Yet, he continues to serve saying, “It might be corny, but I believe in the Army values.”
  • SSG Jonathan Looney was a senior scout in Iraq when he was injured in Iraq in 2007.  “I was in the back of the convoy this day.  There was no traffic.  That’s never good.  We were by a brick factory and boom.  I felt the impact, but was more worried about my Soldiers and truck.”  The explosion caused his spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injury (TBI).  “My goal was to serve 20 years in active duty, when I was injured I thought it was over.”  But through the Army’s COAD/COAR program, he can fulfill that career goal at the Armor School at Fort Benning.  “I want to be that Soldier that works with others Soldiers and show them that if I can—they can.”
  • “I’m 11 Bravo,” and that’s about all you need to know about SSG John Stevenson.  During his fourth deployment to Iraq he was injured by an EFP including blindness in his right eye, TBI, and the shattering of his right arm.  Regarding his TBI, he explained, “My brain moved 7mm to the right inside my head.” As to why he’s continued to serve when he could have easily medically retired, Stevenson stated, “My goal for doing this is to pay it forward.” Which could also explain why he’s now an 11 Bravo instructor at Army Combat Readiness Center at Fort Rucker, AL. Of wounded warriors, he states, “We have a lot to offer—a lot to give back.”  And to other wounded who are considering staying in the Army, Stevenson offers this advice, “Do not let people tell you what you do not want to hear.  Have a goal and stick to it.  I will retire on my own terms with a college degree, having done it my own way.”
  • SPC Bryan Camacho loves the cohesion and camaraderie of the infantry. “No one comes close anywhere else—we are the best at what we do.  The environment sucks but we manage to have fun and look out for each other.  When one is hurt, we’re all hurt.  We just pick each other up and move forward.”  But Camacho is now adjusting to a new job.  As he explained it, he moved from the front line to a front desk after his legs were paralyzed in 2007 when he was ejected from his Humvee.  But of his job at the Fort Campbell Soldier Family Assistance Center (SFAC), he explained, “I am still helping Soldiers in a leadership position—it’s just in an office and not on the battlefield.”  He plans to stay in and have a full career in the Army.  “I cannot quit, but that’s common among most Soldiers.  We push forward and don’t stop for less than our best.”
  • “Every day the doctor saw me, he said ‘you should be dead,’” SGT Lee Turner shared, then quickly added, “I am just a miracle walking.”  As to what drives him, Turner explained, “I’m alive.  The Army kept me alive.  The Army, as a whole, is the greatest thing in the world.”  As a 13 Bravo, Turner was on foot patrol with an eight-man squad when the Soldier behind him stepped on an IED.  Twenty-nine surgeries later, Turner is back in uniform continuing to serve 13 Bravos as an Advanced Individual Training (AIT) instructor at Fort Sill.  “My motivation is to wake up each day to train 13 Bravos.  That motivates the crap out of me.”

These are just a few of the stories I heard over a two-day period. While you might think their stories are unique, SGT Molly Holub stated, “I don’t see a difference between us and other Soldiers.  We can do as much—and as much good for the Army.”

After listening to each Soldier, I asked them all the same thing in closing, “Knowing what you know, knowing what you’ve been through, would you do it all again?”  And while all their previous answers were personal and diverse, this question yielded the same response, a passionate, “Absolutely!”

You can listen to more of these Soldiers, as well as remarks from wounded retired GEN Frederick Franks, Jr., firsthand in a new video on the WTC website.

Finally, to those who shared their stories—thank you.  And, to those who want to—just let me know when and where!

A Wounded Warrior’s Pixie Dust

By Emily Oehler, WTC Stratcom

Throughout my life there have been key people, that when I met them, I knew it was something special. I’m not talking about celebrities or those with political power. I’m talking about someone who centers you, makes you realize there are greater things in this life, and makes you a better person for knowing them.  Really special people. When I have met these rare people, I was instantly struck to my core—an indelible mark I would forever carry. I would say it was like a lightening strike, but for me, it’s been more like a feeling of being sprinkled with the joy of pixie dust. Magical.

Two years ago I met one such person and his wife—they both gave me a dash of pixie dust—retired SSG Shilo and Kathreyn Harris. On the flight home after meeting them at a work conference, I wrote Shilo and told him he was one of the most beautiful people I had met and that his strength, humor, compassion, and faith were inspiring. Since meeting the Harrises, I’ve had the honor of interviewing them a few times for work with the Warrior Transition Command (WTC) and the Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2).  During my last visit, they each sat down with me for separate three hour interviews to share the nooks and crannies of their life since Shilo was severely injured in Iraq. They shared their story in hopes of helping others cope with similar life-changing events. The newly finished 30-minute video is a compelling look at service, marriage, compassion, fortitude, faith, loss, hope and love. 

Warriors in Transition:  A Story of Resiliency demonstrates true strength of character:   

  • 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. Shilo told me, “You know when I’m talking to Soldiers I try to tell them you have to look at everything that God gives you as a gift. It may not always be the gift that you want, but you have to take what you get sometimes and turn it into something else. And that’s kind of what I’ve done.” Since retiring, Shilo has become an Outreach Coordinator for the Wounded Warrior Project. 
  • So that Shilo could recover at home, Kathreyn became his 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 (and now a newborn baby!).  During his recovery, she became an Advocate for the Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) to support other wounded warriors at Brooke Army Medical Center.  Kathreyn shared with me that, “The situation that we’ve been put in, it would have been just as easy to let it guide our life into a negative  and into turmoil—and all the negative things that you can imagine but we’ve taken what happened to Shilo and we’ve turned it into a very positive thing.”

I don’t want to share too much and spoil watching the video, but I do hope you take time to watch them share their story—it’s not unlike many of the stories I’ve heard over the past four years shared by some of the 8,000 severely wounded Soldiers and Veterans I have had the honor of meeting. The Harrises’ story will feed your soul, inspire your heart, and captivate your mind. 

And, watch out for their pixie dust!

Ordinary Hero—Adaptive Sports PSA

By Emily Oehler, WTC Stratcom

I am not a natural athlete. Every time I go out for a run it’s hard. I use mind games to get through the mile at hand and rely on music to keep me going. One group that helped me complete the Army Ten-Miler was the Foo Fighters. Hearing their songs always gets my inner athlete motivated—and that’s saying something for a self-proclaimed couch potato.

Their song “Hero” is powerful for me, especially the song’s chorus, “There goes my hero. Watch him as he goes. There goes my hero. He’s ordinary.” I love the song because of the driving beat that keeps my feet going for another mile while my head says stop and take a break, but also because it speaks to the ordinary hero. For me, that has come to represent the wounded Soldiers and Veterans who have kept going when so many things say they should stop.

A few months ago I was inspired by some “ordinary heroes” when we filmed wounded Soldiers playing volleyball at Ft. Belvoir’s Warrior Transition Unit. These “ordinary” men and women were anything but. Undeterred by physical or mental challenges, they hit the court and went all out!

So, if you’re looking for some athletic motivation or an ordinary hero for inspiration—watch this clip.

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.

COAD/COAR Soldiers Prioritize Top Issues for Army to Address

By Emily Oehler, WTC Stratcom

1SG Mario Cirirese presented the top COAD/COAR issues to the Army G-1.

“I am proud that our Army has a COAD/COAR [Continue on Active Duty/Continue on Active Reserve] program as most armies around the world do not,” LTG Thomas Bostick, Army G-1, told the 30 delegates who continued on active duty/reserve post severe injury. “We are going to take what you give us and do our best by you.”

Bostick was joined by other senior leaders at the AW2 COAD/COAR Forum to hear firsthand what issues and recommendations the delegates had for updating the 40-year-old regulations. Joining Bostick on the panel was:

  • Human Resources Command Commander MG Gina Farrisee
  • Department of Military Personnel Management BG Gary Cheek
  • Warrior Transition Command (WTC) Commander COL (P) Darryl Williams
  • Office of Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management, Director of Installations Kathleen Marin
  • AW2 Director COL Greg Gadson.

Additionally, Deborah Amdur from Veterans Health Administration, Dr. Duncan from Civilian Human Resources Agency, Samuel Rutherford of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army/Manpower and Reserve Affairs, and Tom Webb WTC Deputy were in attendance for the delegate’s report out.

After three days of intense focus group work, the delegates narrowed down 57 issues to a consolidated list of 34 issues. Each of the two groups then selected their top five issues and presented them to the entire delegate body. Together, they then prioritized their top five issues—and due to a tie for #1, there was actually a top six list:

  1. COAD/COAR Soldiers to remain competitive with peers for promotion.
  2. Absence of continuity of understanding of COAD/COAR at all levels of the Army. Standardization of awareness and training, and effective distribution of information affecting all COAD/COAR Soldiers.
  3. Procurement, sustainment, and maintenance of durable medical and adaptive fitness equipment.
  4. Coordination of care is difficult for a COAD/COAR Soldier.
  5. Stipend for extra expenses directly associated with service-related injuries.
  6. Develop advanced education programs for enlisted COAD/COAR Soldiers.

After an hour of listening to the delegates explain the importance of these six issues and recommended actions for resolution, Bostick said, “This is very helpful. We need to work on this together.” In closing, Bostick stated, “We live by our ethos, ‘to never leave a fallen comrade.’ I am here to tell you we will not leave you now. I am extremely proud of you and your Family’s service, and your hard work and leadership this week.”

The Hot Blue Flame

By Emily Oehler, WTC Stratcom

A former COAD Soldier retired GEN Fredrick Franks (right) discusses ways to improve the Army COAD/COAR process with AW2 Director COL Greg Gadson (left) and AW2 Sergeant Major SGM Robert Gallagher (center).

For most of the AW2 Continue on Active Duty/Continue on Active Reserve (COAD/COAR) Forum delegates, their determination to find ways to improve how the Army manages those who are unfit for duty post injury but who remain in the Army is about “those that will follow.” It’s a responsibility they take very seriously. In fact, SGT Molly Holub, a Military Police dog handler, ended her pre-deployment leave three days early to attend and support the Army’s efforts to update the COAD/COAR system.

This morning during a breakfast session, the delegates heard from a decorated Soldier who paved the way for them—and still does. GEN Frederick Franks, a retired general and COAD Soldier, spoke to the delegates about what he described as the “hot blue flame of passion and drive to continue to serve.”

“All the males in my Family and community served in WWII [World War II],” Franks shared. “I was taken by their selflessness and pride in what they’d done—their willingness to serve. I wanted to earn the right to lead people like that, so I attended West Point.”

An injury, while serving in Cambodia in 1970, resulted in the amputation of Franks’ left leg below the knee. He went through the Medical Evaluation Board (MEB) in July 1971 and knew immediately that he wanted to COAD. “It’s my life. I love being a Soldier,” added Franks.  

Regulation AR 635-40 was in place back then, and Franks said, “It’s pretty much the same process, MEB, PEB [Physical Evaluation Board], and COAR that exists today.” He added, “After 10 years at war, it’s time for the Army to take it to the next level with the appropriate resources. I have great admiration for the establishment of AW2, but now they need to bump it up a notch.”

After meeting and talking with several of the current COAD Soldiers, Franks commented, “I am honored to be in their presence and admire their resiliency—to get up and go on. I am inspired by their continuation to serve.”

Franks charged commanders, “Look at the COAD/COAR Soldiers’ abilities and utilize them accordingly. Don’t artificially constrain or put limitations on them. Ask them. Engage them. Talk to them. Learn where they can best serve and whether or not their talents are being served or whether they could be better utilized somewhere else. They have an enormous amount to give—but we have to give them the opportunity.”

“I know for me, being able to continue to serve after my left foot was amputated, is one of my life’s greatest privileges.”

A Force To Be Reckoned With

By Emily Oehler, WTC Stratcom

SFC Jarrett Jongema is one of the 30 AW2 COAD/COAR Forum delegates who despite his numerous critical combat injuries, decided to continue to serve post injury and inspire others to do the same.

“This is not a program you run out and want to join like Boy Scouts. You just end up here,” SFC Jarrett Jongema explained. “We all have one thing in common—we’ve been through hell and back.”

Jongema was severely wounded in Iraq. Blasted 50 feet from his Humvee’s (High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle) turret, Jongema had his face ripped off by a razor wire, his leg shattered, his lung collapsed, his body impaled by a fence, and his heart bruised. He was shot, proclaimed dead seven times, and sustained a traumatic brain injury. This was “the hell” and “the back” was his work to recover.

“There is a stigma out there and anyone who denies it is full of crap. Anyone with a profile is viewed as being broken and busted with limitations. I know I used to think that,” Jongema explained. “But, being in a challenging job that exercised my mind and speech really helped my recovery. It’s been a great job at HRC [Army Human Resources Command], and I’m not ready to quit. I love to wear the uniform.”

Jongema, the Senior Enlisted Career Advisor for the Air Defense and Public Affairs Career Management Field, is going through the Medical Evaluation Board (MEB) process and plans to Continue on Active Duty rather than medically retire. “I want to be actively engaged and help Soldiers—to have the greatest amount of visibility so that I have the greatest level of impact on wounded warriors.” Jongema added, “My goals include promotion to MSG [master sergeant] and possibly working at a Warrior Transition Unit.” He’s also working on his degree because he knows there is life after the uniform and says, “Everything I do in uniform prepares me for that.”

This week, Jongema is working as one of 30 delegates at the AW2 Continue on Active Duty/Continue on Active Reserve (COAD/COAR) Forum to update the Army’s regulations that manage Soldiers found unfit for duty but continue to serve. “With all the subject matter experts here, our experiences, and leadership’s support—I know something good will come out of this week.”

As for life after “hell and back,” Jongema replied, “We’ve all had our challenges being wounded and continuing to serve. These guys, they all have so much heart and drive doing what they love and cannot be written off. I know I’m still a force to be reckoned with.”

“Team Leader for the God Squad” Shares Prayer at COAD Forum

By Emily Oehler, WTC Stratcom

Chaplain LTC Mark Nordstrom (left) speaks with forum delegate SPC Bryan Camacho (right), one of the 30 delegates Nordstrom challenged to create a better Army for tomorrow’s force.

As a PK (preachers kid), I have heard a lot of prayers.  And when my brother followed in my dad’s footsteps, I heard even more.  So when Chaplain LTC Mark Nordstrom was introduced at the AW2 Continue on Active Duty/Continue on Active Reserve (COAD/COAR) Forum as the “team leader for the God squad,” in a biography written by AW2 Sergeant Major SGM Robert Gallagher, my interest was piqued.

The chaplain stood before 30 delegates who were eager to give the Army advice on how to update regulations that govern severely wounded Soldiers who chose to COAD/COAR post injury. With an opportunity to inspire the delegates, Nordstrom stated, “We’re an Army Family— it’s in my blood.  Many in my Family have served.  I am counting on you to create a better Army where my son will serve.”

He then blessed the delegates:

Almighty Father, our Strength and Shield: we give you thanks for the devotion and courage of all those who have offered military service for this country.

For the those who have fought for freedom; for those who laid down their lives for others; for those who have borne suffering of mind and body; for those who have brought their best gifts to times of need.  Lord, have mercy.

Lift up by Your mighty presence those who are now at war; encourage and heal those in hospitals or mending their wounds at home; guard those in any need or trouble; hold safely in your hands all our families; and bring the returning troops to joyful reunion and tranquil life at home.

Give to us, Your people, grateful hearts and a united will to honor these men and women through our work here this week and hold them always in our love and our prayers; until Your world is perfected in peace.  Amen.

This prayer struck a chord with me—especially while listening to 15 severely wounded Soldiers share their personal stories with me today. These stories described the devastation of losing members of their Army Family in combat; personally dying 7 times during treatment but healed due to outstanding physician assistants (PAs), emergency medical technicians (EMTs), physicians, and nurses; the stress of their injury on their children; and being a “walking miracle.”

For all the prayers I’ve heard—this will be one of the few that will be kept and repeated; and of course, shared with my dad (a Vietnam Veteran) and my brother.  It will be nice to give them an earful for a change.

Wounded Soldiers Work Hard and Play Hard at COAD/COAR Forum

By Emily Oehler, WTC Stratcom

AW2 COAD/COAR delegate, SFC Juanita Wilson is one of 30 wounded warriors who attended the COAD/COAR Forum night out at the Washington Wizards/Denver Nuggets NBA basketball game in Washington, DC, coordinated by various organizations including the American Red Cross.

I think most Americans think of the Red Cross during times of national disasters.  What they might not realize is that they also support wounded warriors. 

This week, the American Red Cross united several other wounded warrior supporters to provide a night out for the 30 delegates at the AW2 Continue on Active Duty/Continue on Active Reserve (COAD/COAR) Forum.  In coordination with the USO, Verizon Center/Qwest, and Washington Wizards, the delegates saw the Wizards take on the Denver Nuggets.

These Forum delegates are severely wounded and chose to continue to serve post injury.  They are in DC this week to work on updating some of the Army’s regulations that oversee warrior care.  As delegate SFC Juanita Wilson, a severely wounded active reservist, explained, “I’m here to pay it forward for the others who will follow behind me.”

A specific program of the Red Cross, the American Red Cross Service to the Armed Forces at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, provides items of comfort to support the morale of wounded warriors and their Families while they recover at Walter Reed.  These items are contributed by the American public in monetary contributions or in-kind donations.  In fact, many of their corporate and community partners organize annual drives for items that are needed to support the program.  At Walter Reed, the American Red Cross Station provides referral services both on the base and in the community.  Plus, they work directly with hospital clinics to provide dependable volunteers. 

Recently the American Red Cross Station provided Legos to support the FORCE: mTBI program and worked with the Assistive Technology Specialist to provide an array of items, from computer speakers for a triple amputee taking classes online to Nintendo DS gaming systems with Brain Age software for wounded warriors working with therapists in the traumatic brain injury clinics.  Additional programs include: pet therapy, adaptive scuba diving, taxi vouchers, haircut and shave vouchers, and computer loaner programs.  Their goal is to provide support to the Walter Reed Medical Center community whenever they can. 

Assistant Station Manager Teri Ridley explained, “We, the staff and volunteers, become very attached to the patients.  I think the most important service we provide is our ‘broad shoulders.’  Some days I walk out of my office and I see staff, patients, and Families just sitting in our cramped office enjoying a cookie and cup of coffee—glad to be able to get away from the stress of watching their loved one recover.”  She added, “Usually our patient’s first outing includes a visit to the Red Cross office for Family members to introduce us to their son, daughter, or spouse.  We watch the ups and downs the Family members experience during the first few days or weeks here. Usually we share a few tears with them as well.  Best of all we share the joy with Families when their loved ones begin to recover.”

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