Working At Symposium Connects Soldier to Others with PTSD

Battle buddies Brett Turpin and Matt Staton reunite at the AW2 Symposium.

By Nick Lutton, Guest blogger and member of the National Guard

This week I’m attending the Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) Symposium for the first time. I kind of got here by pure luck, the way most of the cooler things in my life have happened. The company I work for is supporting the event, and there was an open spot for a guy who writes, edits, lifts heavy boxes and can eat good Tex-Mex. I fit right in. When I first signed on to do this gig I didn’t realize it was going to affect me in the way that it has so far. I initially thought, “There goes my diet and blood pressure.” What I mean is this Symposium is going to be deeper than I thought.

For example, I met one of the main presenters yesterday. CW3 James Hume is a wounded warrior who is here to talk about wounds that have affected so many of my fellow servicmembers coming back from OIF/OEF. He has been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). As we were talking, I realized I went through very similar scenarios in my head. My friend has gone through similar scenarios too. Since coming back, I’ve been violent, I’ve been depressed, I get easily frustrated and lash out. My friend still refuses to drive on highways. I tend to avoid heavy crowds. I’ve had nightmares. I crawled into a bottle. I know other friends who have too.

I joined the Army prior to 9/11. I remember standing in formation, as a young private, and the drill sergeant asking everyone why they joined the United States Army. Every single one of us joined for the college money. It was a different time then, we all had a different way of looking at the world. I hadn’t given a thought as to who our biggest threat was. Of course, 9/11 changed that for most if not all of us. I stayed in the Army for patriotism, and I would do it all over again.

I first deployed to Afghanistan in June of 2003. I was part of a 20 Soldier team that conducted Public Affairs missions all around the country. I volunteered for every mission I could. I first met my buddy with the highway problem during this deployment. I’m not releasing his name because I don’t have his express written consent. We’ll just call him “Highway.” So Highway and I were constantly travelling, we ended up in several hairy situations that I can only describe as the first real time in my life that I was actually scared for my life.

When I got back home, initially I thought I was okay, but PTSD crept up on me. It hit me like a frying pan to the back of the head. This was the first time I became violent towards a significant other, after that incident, I sought counseling and I co-created a group at my university for Veterans so that we could be around people who understood what we had gone through. I deployed again in 2006 to Afghanistan and came home a different person. I initially had what I call jumping spells at night. I would almost leap out of bed, but I don’t remember the dream exactly. My relationship suffered and I eventually got a divorce, drank more, had another violent outburst, and eventually sought serious counseling. The counseling has helped me calm myself. I’ve always felt, my counselor believes, and my ex agrees that I might have PTSD, which brings me back to James and the Army Wounded Warrior Symposium.

James is a well-spoken man, and he does his best to describe what he is going through. It’s tough, it’s tough to watch, and it’s tough to listen to. Not because his voice hurts my ears or anything, but because I know. I know the pain, the embarrassment, the feeling of let down from the actions you have taken. I know the frustration.

If you are a Veteran, a wounded warrior, a spouse or Family member of either, you should read the blogs, read the information on the Symposium, make plans to come to one of the Symposiums if you can, learn about AW2 or contact your local VA or Military OneSource and get help.

This is Just the Beginning

SSG (R) Shilo Harris with his daughter, Lizzie

SSG (R) Shilo Harris with his daughter, Lizzie. Harris inspired wounded warriors and employers at the 2010 AW2 Career Expo.

By Emily Oehler, WTC Stratcom

When the AW2 Career Expo participants and employers first saw retired SSG Shilo Harris, they noticed his severe burns—no ears, a remade nose, little hair, scars, missing fingers, patched up skin. But when they listened to him speak during lunch, they only saw the strength of a Soldier, the love of a husband and the compassion of a man.

At 27, Shilo Harris joined the Army. “I wanted to go to combat even though I had a wife and kids. After 9/11, I knew I had to do something,” Shilo told the AW2 Symposium delegates and Career Expo employers. “I am proud of what I was a part of in Iraq and in the Army.”

For Shilo, February 19, 2007, was a day like any other, “we were running the roads building rapport with the locals—traveling along a road filled with IED holes the size of a VW bug.” An IED exploded under his truck killing his gunner and two dismounts and injuring the driver and Shilo in the front passenger seat. “We lost three great Soldiers, great Americans that day.”

“It rung my bell pretty good—and then I felt hot. I looked down and saw that the uniform on my right arm had melted into my skin like plastic,” Shilo explained. After the IED exploded, an AT4 exploded inside the Humvee creating a tornado of fire around Shilo.

As one Soldier performed combat lifesaving measures on Shilo, he remembers looking over at his mangled left hand thinking, “Man, I better get a day off for this.” Laughing, “You see we didn’t get many days off in Iraq.”

Kathreyn Harris, his wife, then shared her part of their story. “I knew when his commander called me personally that Shilo had done it up right with this injury—he gave everything his all, even getting hurt. He had third degree burns over one-third of his body and a C7 spinal fracture.”

She went on, “There I was the next day leaving my three year old daughter on the couch screaming with her grandparents not knowing what I was getting into as I left for Landstuhl to meet Shilo.” After seeing Shilo she explained, “with all the machines to keeping him alive and all the medicines keeping the infection down, everything changed. My focus now was to get my husband better so that he’d be with us for the rest of our lives.”

Fifty-one days in ICU, 45 of which Shilo was in a medically induced coma, then 17 days in a step down unit, then 4-6 hours a day of wound care, then learning to do everything again. As they stood together in front of the audience, Shilo with his hand on her back, Katherine stated, “We gained his independence back together.”

Shilo closed his remarks by charging the AW2 Symposium delegates, wounded warriors with their spouses, to “take advantage of this opportunity to improve care now and for years to come.” The delegates will spend the upcoming week identifying the top warrior care and transition issues that severely wounded, ill and injured Soldiers, Veterans and their Families face and provide recommendations on how the Army and other government agencies should resolve them.

“As you leave here, I’m begging you, go back and be a productive member of your community. Please be leaders in your communities—and know, this is not the end of the road, this is just the beginning.”

AW2 Spouse Writes to Cope, Heal

By Tania Meireles, WTC Stratcom

AW2 Family Janis and Norris Galatas at home in Mississippi.

AW2 Family, Janis and Norris Galatas, at home in Mississippi.

AW2 Spouse Janis Galatas wrote a book, A Soldier’s Courage, about her husband Norris and the struggles they have gone through. I was able to catch up with her recently to ask her how the process of writing about her feelings and challenges has helped her and her husband and how she hopes others will use writing as an outlet during difficult times.

How did you start writing?

I must have inherited the writer’s flair from my mom. Mom wrote a moving poem about her brave hero brother who died in WWII on the “Indy Maru.” She also wrote a little book for her nieces and nephews connecting them with their Family history. My Mom and I are also great writers of letters.

How did writing down your experiences after your husband’s injury make you feel?

At first it was just documentation, but later on, as the wait got longer, staff moved to other jobs, or surgeons moved on to other hospitals, it became very cathartic. I was writing it all down as it happened to us at Walter Reed, and my pals in Georgia and California were posting it on their websites over the Internet. From April 2005 through the horrible aftermath of surgery #17 in August of 2006, it all went global. We went through some bad times at Walter Reed. But things eventually did get better. I realized I would have exploded on somebody if I hadn’t had the “blog” to vent and to have the support of “prayer warriors”—people from all over the world…literally—praying for us. Without my buddies on the Internet, I would have been totally alone at Walter Reed with no support group. Blogging is therapeutic. It was all in the book and people tell me they had no clue how badly our wounded were getting treated.

When did you decide to write a book and why?

While Norris lay in a coma at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC, I remembered advice from a friend of Norris’s who had to fight with the Army and the VA for every percentage of his disability benefit. He said to put down everything, so I was documenting Norris’s care, his medications, and his procedures. When Norris awakened nine days later, he was disoriented, deep into a drug haze, and he couldn’t even tell the doctors what hospital he was in. So, I began a daily journal to keep up with his surgeries, procedures, and adventures in the hospital so he could read them later on. After he became mobile his adventures grew. During the first 90 days I stayed with him, it was mostly documentation, but after four years of making Walter Reed his home, the book was born. He met so many wonderful supporters and we have become firm friends with so many all over the globe. I wanted to let all the Families know where to go for help and where to get stuff for their Soldiers without having to spend their own money. People need to know this. It is also a healing experience for our veterans who have read it.

How has writing the book helped you and your Family?

Everyone is happy to read it and loves it, but with sales so slow, writing, and publishing the book was more a labor of love than anything else. I am still in the hole financially and it has been rough on us. I’m just glad families have benefitted from all the information I put in. People who were not close to us and didn’t know how severe Norris’s injuries were, after reading the book are all shocked at just how wonderful he looks but how almost dead he was. Especially the medics who worked on him that day, they thought he was a “goner.”

What are your hopes for your book?

Of course I would love to make a little money for my two passions—horses and Soldiers. I have rescued horses and adopted Soldiers. But if I never make a dime in royalties, I just wish military families could know it is out there. There is just so much information about how the Army can better work for you or even things you can do from the civilian side to benefit your wounded warrior. There are some things that are going to happen and one must learn how to cope with stuff and not let it ruin a marriage and destroy the kids. PTSD and TBI are difficult to diagnose and so many go untreated until they have lost everything. My book tells how our wounded can learn to “work the system” and lets families know how to recognize PTSD and even how to deal with TBI. Norris was at WRAMC for one and a half years before his “mild” TBI showed up, and it took until just last Christmas for me to realize he was suffering from PTSD and withdrawing from public places and events. We are working through it and we are going to be fine, but it is not easy to watch someone you love go through the emotional withdrawal as well as suffer the physical pain.

How do you suggest AW2 Soldiers, Veterans, and Families start writing as an outlet for what they are going through?

Just grab a notebook and start keeping a daily journal. Write down every appointment, every flashback, and every hurdle. As you write, go ahead and keep track of who does what and to whom you have to report. Go ahead and vent and get it all out of your system. Later on, should you publish, you can edit. One of the things my Soldiers said they missed was being able to talk with other Soldiers. Go to meet with other troops in homes, camp houses, VA facilities and even clubs if necessary…but get together with other troops. Talk about it. Same for spouses and kids…meet with other families and kids. Find out how they coped.

AW2 Weekly Digest April 26-30

  • AW2 Veteran Joseph “Jay” Briseno Jr., featured on Nextgov.com, is among the patients being helped by an in-home monitoring system.
  • AW2 Veteran Heath Calhoun was featured in The Leaf Chronicle and Paris Post-Intelligencer about Homes for Our Troops providing him and his Family a specially adapted house and was also featured in Winston-Salem Journal in an article on his injury, recovery, and his appreciation for community support.
  • AW2 Veteran John Eichenberger was featured on WOAI-TV in a series on the “Journey of a Wounded Warrior (Part 2): Into the Gym” at the Center for the Intrepid.
  • AW2 Veteran Daniel Glanz, featured in The Cavalier Daily, discussed how improvements in prosthetics have allowed him to do the thing he enjoys—like skydiving.
  • AW2 Solider SGT Matthew Harvey and AW2 Veteran Christopher Strickland, featured in Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, will be participating in the Warrior Games.
  • AW2 Soldier SGT Angel Herrera, featured on KCEN-TV, has been preparing for the Warrior Games at Fort Hood.
  • AW2 Soldier SGT Daniel Lopez, featured on WVEC-TV and The Morning Call, is gearing up for a new challenge in the Warrior Games.
  • AW2 Veterans Brian Neuman and Michael Schlitz, featured in Army News, returned to Iraq for closure through Operation Proper Exit in April.
  • AW2 Soldier SGT Jourdan Smith was featured on WOAI-TV in a series on the “Journey of a Wounded Warrior (Part 1)” at the Center for the Intrepid.
  • AW2 Veteran Sergio Trejo, featured in the Houston Chronicle, appreciates the assistance he and his Family received from Helping a Hero.

The appearance of external hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the United States Department of Defense of the linked web sites, or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) sites, the United States Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations.

AW2 Veteran Participates in USA Hockey Disabled Festival

By Tania Meireles, WTC Stratcom

AW2 Veteran Joe Bowser playing hockey.

AW2 Veteran Joe Bowser playing hockey.

AW2 Veteran Joe Bowser is a member of the U.S. Stand-Up National Amputee Hockey Team, and he and his team participated in the USA Hockey Disabled Festival in Maryland recently. The Festival encompassed all four disciplines of disabled hockey, including deaf/hard of hearing hockey, special hockey, sled hockey, and standing/amputee hockey. A total of 50 teams competed in the event in nine divisions with athletes of all ages. I was able to ask him a few questions about his thoughts on the festival.

Who did your team play against? How was the game?

We played against the USA Warriors team made up of wounded warriors from Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC). It was a tough game, but our team [the National team] was able to overcome the Warriors. The Warriors played together really well—they are very talented. We also played against the Canadian Embassy Team, and the Canadians won that game by two.

Did other wounded warriors play hockey during the Festival?

The USA Warriors from WRAMC played the San Antonio Rampage [wounded warriors from Brooke Army Medical Center]. It was great to see these Soldiers play in this game and have fun. I think sports provide wounded warriors with great exercise and lets them see the things they can do instead of what they can’t do. Congrats to the Rampage for winning that game.

What other games did you enjoy seeing at the Festival?

It was really cool to see children and young adults with disabilities out there on the ice. I love seeing their excitement to go out there and utilize what they have—capitalize on their abilities. It is the same thing with us [wounded warriors]. I look forward to doing it again next year!

Hard Roads Lead to Smooth Paving, Good Scenery, and Peace of Mind

By AW2 Veteran Brandon Deal

As a Veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, I had to endure the same struggles that many of my brethren who may read this did. I started my tour in Samarra, Iraq (FOB McKinzie) and ended my tour in Balad, Iraq (FOB Paliwoda). As a Field Artillery Radar Operator, there were many situations that I had to make some pretty tough decisions in a pretty short amount of time.

A large part of my job consisted of my monitoring two different radio nets to have a good sense of awareness. If I happened to hear that one of our elements were under fire, it would, more often than not, fall on me to call up the secondary fire that they were taking. As a matter of fact, the only times that I didn’t call up the contact was when my radar wasn’t looking in the area the fire was received. There were many times I heard things over that radio that I wish I could forget.

While deployed, I was forced to do unorthodox PT because of the constant mortar rounds that were being lobbed at us. It wasn’t until I returned from Iraq that I realized how devastating that really was. A combination of the heavy lifting that is associated with my job, being in an area under constant secondary attack forcing us to wear our gear even inside the wire, and the alternative PT regiment resulted in some serious injuries that I had no idea of.

When I returned from Iraq, I was utilized in many capacities. I was assigned to 1st Battalion, 5th Field Artillery, 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division at Ft. Riley. At the time, Hamilton’s Own was being used as a training battalion for MIT teams. I was promoted to SGT (E-5) not long after returning and was sent to another unit on Ft. Riley. Upon being sent to that unit, I had more duties than I thought possible. Not long after my inter-postal transfer I started having pains in my lower back and down through my legs. It got to a point where my legs would go into a state of temporary paralysis and it scared me.

I went to the Troop Clinic and told them what was happening and was treated as if I wasn’t telling the truth about what I was experiencing. I was given a two week profile and told to come back to see the doctor. The funny thing was that the profile only said “No Run, Jump, or March.” A lot of good that did, because it didn’t say anything about push-ups or sit-ups. Because these were omitted from the profile, I still had to do PT. When I came back to see the doctor, x-rays were taken and he saw that I had a serious injury in my lower back: it was broken.

Much to my dismay, it set off a chain of events that landed me in a Warrior Transition Battalion with three lower back surgeries under my belt, finally diagnosed correctly with PTSD, the knowledge that I had osteoarthritis throughout my spine, bone growth protruding into nerves in my neck, and much more. In February of 2009 I retired from the Army, enrolled in college, and started attending job fairs. I wanted (and still do) to get my degree in computer science.

After a couple of months, I got a call from a representative at a Department of Defense contractor that deals with everything from welding parts together to aerospace technologies. The company has a sector dedicated to working solely with disabled Veterans. I was told that the company would like to interview me for a position on a program designing a new type of unmanned aerial vehicle. I took the interview (as if I would turn it down) and that set in another chain of events that has led me to where I am now. I am currently working on a project that works hand-in-hand with a branch of the military and I am loving my job! I never thought that at 24, I would be working for a major corporation doing what I love.

I have told you of some hard roads that I have had to take. Along those hard roads there were so many bumps and pot-holes that I couldn’t begin to tell you. If this makes it to anyone’s eyes, I’m sure that each of you have a similar story. I wrote this not just for others, but it is therapeutic for me to get some of these words on “paper” and out of my head. Because of current OPSEC, there are many things that I’ve left out, but anyone that’s been in my shoes can probably fill in the blanks. I don’t even think I can talk about the blanks.

These roads have been hard over the past few years, but now I’m in a place that there is smooth paving, good scenery, and peace of mind. I hope that someone will get to read this story and that my success thus far will inspire someone. I want anyone who reads this to know that, though things WILL get tough, if you keep looking at the end of that tunnel, you will come into the light eventually. That light is not just an optical illusion—and always keep your eye on it so as to not lose touch with your goals.

Thank you for anyone who reads this. It means so much to me to get off my chest. Please leave something of a comment so that I may know if any of my words have touched someone.

Trading My ACUs for a Suit and Tie (Part II)

By AW2 Veteran Mark Tippett

Editor’s Note: Read Mark Tippett’s blog from yesterday, “My Last Day in the Army.”

Now I had to find other employment outside of the Army, and that scared the hell out of me. I kept wondering how I was going to make it work when I had memory issues and a migraine problem. This was scary but I knew I would get through, as tons of people before me have and tons after also will. That didn’t stop me from losing a lot of sleep and probably talking my wife’s ear off about my worries. Everyone kept telling me it would be okay and I’ll do fine, I just wanted to get to the point where I had control over everything again. We spend so much time in the Army having everything clear cut, but this was far from it. I was leaving what I loved to do, the people I knew and trading in my ACUs for a suit and tie…

After going through numerous interviews, I landed a job with IDEXX Laboratories as a Diagnostic Sales Consultant. My new boss, Jason Hunsinger took a chance on me giving me this job because of my service and willingness to learn. He later told me that he had a brother in the Air Force and that he respected all of those in uniform. Essentially I was part of the sales force for a company that was the Gold Standard for veterinary laboratory equipment. Let’s face the facts here: I didn’t know jack about this industry. All I knew is what the Army had instilled in me and that was all of the Army Values. I soon learned that was all I needed to find success.

When I started the training cycle with this company, they knew that I was a Soldier. My first real experience blew me away; one of my trainers came over and introduced himself to me telling me that he was a former Armor Officer and had served five years. He asked about my combat experience and offered to help me adjust to this new career and, what’s more, offered me the support of another combat Veteran. Sometimes we lose sight of how many of us are out there.

After completing their training cycle (which was designed by former Soldiers) and sort of understanding what I was doing, it was off into the field. I had two great supervisors. They allowed me the flexibility to take charge but to also assist where needed. I was open with my boss about my disability. I was terrified to talk to him about it at first, but then I realized that in order for me to be successful, he needed to know how to help me when I needed it. I’m not going to sugarcoat it; it is hard to tell someone about your injuries, even harder admitting that you have a problem. Once I told him, it felt like I took a 200 pound weight fell off of my shoulders. No one can help you if they don’t know the issue. I’m not saying everyone should go out and tell their boss everything that is wrong, but if it can impact your work in a negative light, it’s good to make them aware.

First things first, I received my compensation plan (mission), constructed a plan for its execution, put my plan in motion, completed the plan then refined it. Does this look familiar? It wasn’t until a few months later that I realized I was using Army Troop Leading Procedures to execute my compensation plan and you know what? It was working! It wasn’t instantaneous, but it worked. I had to constantly work to refine what I was doing and adapt to the changing economy but I was doing okay.

Under the tutelage of my management and my hard work, I quickly and effectively collected the top spot in our region for sales, going over our sales goal of 125% for three consecutive quarters. Let me be brutally honest — I am not a good sales person, and I never will be. The traits I do possess are loyalty, respect, timeliness, courtesy, integrity and honor, and I demonstrate them with all of my clients. Sounds a lot like our Army values, doesn’t it? That’s because those Army values are what I applied to be successful.

After a year with IDEXX Laboratories my AW2 Advocate Bill Years approached me with a possible job opportunity. As much as I loved my time with IDEXX and the people I worked with, I wanted to get back into a position in which I would be helping our Armed Forces. Bill introduced me to Mr. Howard Kirsner who works at the Washington, D.C., Navy Yard for Public Executive Office Aircraft Carriers. After meeting with Mr. Kirsner, I knew that the position he was offering was a perfect fit for me. Mr. Kirsner is a retired Master Chief who works to push his staff to be the best they can, and that’s the type of person I love to be around. Howard and Bill worked arduously to get me into my current position, and I can’t begin to thank them enough.

What I am trying to bring across to any wounded warrior and their Family is that we have a set of tools instilled in us from our time in the Army. This set of tools will make us successful in any position you have the desire to try. Someone once said, “When one door closes, another one opens,” and this is true for all of us. We’ve all endured much worse things than a new career change and we’ve come through that to be here today. As an old friend of mine used to always say “if it wasn’t hard, it probably wasn’t worth doing.”

My Last Day in the Army (Part I)

By AW2 Veteran Mark Tippett

CPT Mark Tippett and his spouse at his retirement ceremony.

CPT Mark Tippett and his spouse attend his retirement ceremony at Fort Carson.

My last day in the Army was like every other day in the last eight years of service no matter where I was stationed. The only major difference, other than it being my last day in uniform, was that my primary uniform was the Army Combat Uniform (ACU) as apposed to the Battle Dress Uniform (BDU) of my first few years. I woke up at my normal 0530 to get ready just as I had everyday for the past year. I took care to ensure that my uniform was perfect; no wrinkles, Combat Action Badge wasn’t crooked, boots were clean and my beret looked good. I kissed my wife goodbye and headed towards the 759th Military Police Battalion (BN) Headquarters at Fort Carson. As I drove on post my mind was going over the last year and half of my life.

Prior to coming to the 759th, I was the Operations Officer for 2-4-1 National Police Transition Team attached to 1-8 CAV based out of Forward Operating Base Rustimiyah in Iraq. While conducting a combat patrol on Route Predator, my vehicle was struck by an array of Explosively Formed Projectiles (EFPs) that destroyed my M1114 Up-armored HWMMV.

You know how you always hear about that lucky bastard who manages to escape serious injury by a few inches or some small measure? I am that guy. I was in the turret with the M-2 when we were hit, and I had one pane of glass out of seven left in the turret window that kept the EFP out. I also managed to make good friends with the M-2 as my head bounced off of it. Through the expertise of CPT John McCartney and MSG Thomas Leturgez (RET), we managed to get our vehicle (with our team supporting our movement) to the closest Combat Outpost (COP) to evaluate our situation. Upon arrival at the COP, we began receiving incoming mortar rounds that were splashing within 20 meters of us. As everyone sought cover in the COP, I dazedly got out of the turret, disoriented and lost. CPT McCartney came to my aide and got me inside so that our medic could check me out. I thought I escaped all of this relatively unscathed until I started having severe migraines a few days later.

Throughout the rest of the tour I continued to have severe migraines that often left me debilitated. Our medic, SFC Cappas did his best to stave off my pain, but there was a deeper problem that I didn’t realize, and I didn’t want to accept. My team chief, LTC Yznaga always checked on how I was, but I refused to let my worries about my head get in the way of our mission. I didn’t want to let him or my team down, so I just dealt with it and “drove on.”

Upon arrival at Fort Carson, I started having memory problems along with the migraines. My boss at the time and one of my most trusted friends, MAJ Shannon Lucas, pushed me to get checked out. Soon thereafter I was diagnosed with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).

The TBI clinic on Carson treated me for almost a year with some major success, but not to the extent that I had hoped. The next thing I know, my doctor is telling me that medical retirement might be the best thing. I was heartbroken. I immediately went back to BN to talk to MAJ Lucas about all of this and get his opinion. I can’t begin to tell you how many hours I spent in his office getting advice and using him as a sounding board. The entire BN Command staff was supporting me 100%, which is why the thought of being retired was so hard, that coupled with loving every minute of what we do as Soldiers everyday.

Throughout this entire process my wife had been the rock that kept me upright. Her support and love got me through everything thus far, and I am blessed to have such a great wife who always has a smile on her face. No matter what was thrown her way, be it my disorientation from the TBI, my grumpiness, my depression over having to get out or my forgetfulness she patiently gave me love and full support.

It was now 0955 and my wife had just arrived to be with me for the ceremony. Her eyes were mirroring my face, because she knew how hard this was for me. I had a hard time looking her in the eye, because I was slowly losing my composure. I kept telling myself to breath, relax, and try to remember everyone that is here, then LTC Lobdell began my presentation of my retirement award. He said some great things about my time in the BN and how it was a hard day to lose an Officer to this. I was starting to shake as he pinned my award on me. I had this great speech prepared and so many people to thank and all that came out of me was “This is so hard…” and I began to cry. Luckily MAJ Lucas and our BN XO MAJ Young came to my rescue and closed the ceremony. Everyone filed by to shake my hand and say kind words to my wife and me. I was going to miss all of this so much. I was looking forward to taking over the 984th MP Company, but now all of that is gone. My wife and I went home at 1130, and I took my uniform off for the last time.

Editor’s note: Visit the AW2 Blog tomorrow to read about Mark Tippett’s next steps, “Trading My ACUs for a Suit and Tie.”

AW2 Weekly Digest March 22-26

  • AW2 Advocates Tosin Animashaun and Amy Hawk were featured in The Square Deal discussing the National Resource Directory.
  • AW2 Veteran Heath Calhoun was featured in The Survivors Club and Standard-Examiner in articles about competing in the Paralympics.
  • BG Gary Cheek, Warrior Transition Command Commander, discussed the Warrior Games with CBC CA News on March 19.
  • AW2 Veteran Kortney Clemons was featured in a MSNBC series on a prosthetic team’s efforts to help victims of the Haiti earthquake.
  • AW2 Soldier MAJ Tammy Duckworth was featured in a MSNBC series on a prosthetic team’s efforts to help victims of the Haiti earthquake.
  • AW2 Soldiers LTC Greg Gadson and 1LT Joe Guyton and AW2 Veteran Ryan Kelly were featured in The Washington Post series on servicemembers learning to live as amputees.
  • AW2 Veteran Andy Soule was featured in The Sydney Morning Herald and Standard-Examiner in articles about the healing powers of sports.

The appearance of external hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the United States Department of Defense of the linked web sites, or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) sites, the United States Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations.

AW2 Weekly Digest March 15-19

  • AW2 mother Rosalinda Babin shared her story on the DCoE Blog about her son Alan and the challenges and triumphs their Family has experienced.
  • AW2 Veteran Heath Calhoun was featured in a Vancouver Sun article that discussed the Paralympics and the Warrior Games.
  • AW2 Veteran Clayton Carver, featured in FishingWorld.com, discussed his service, injury, recovery, and hopes for a seat at the BASSMasters World Classic.
  • AW2 Soldier MAJ Tammy Duckworth, featured in Army News, was inducted into the Army Women’s Foundation’s Hall of Fame.
  • AW2 Soldier LTC Marc Hoffmeister, featured in DOD News and the DODLive Bloggers Roundtable, discussed his injury and his recognition as National Geographic Magazine’s first Reader’s Choice Adventurer of the Year.
  • AW2 Soldier MAJ Randy Klingensmith, featured in Army News, discussed his recovery and hopes to remain in the Army.
  • AW2 Veteran Ryan Kules was featured in a PRNewswire article about being named as honorary captain for the University of Maryland lacrosse team when they play against Johns Hopkins University on April 17.
  • AW2 Veteran Andy Soule was featured in the Vancouver Sun, Houston Chronicle, and The New York Times in articles about his accomplishments in the Paralympics.
  • AW2 mother Veronica Thomas, featured in the Star-Ledger, discussed her son Bradley and the role she plays in his care and recovery.

The appearance of external hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the United States Department of Defense of the linked web sites, or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) sites, the United States Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations.

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