CPT Alvin Shell and his wife Chilketha spoke at the 2012 Warrior-Family Symposium at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center on September 13, 2012.
By Alli Kartachak, WTC Stratcom
I had the honor of attending the 2012 Warrior-Family Symposium sponsored by Military Officer’s Association of America (MOAA) and National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) in Washington D.C. The event truly moved me as I was able to hear some incredibly touching stories and witness first-hand the pain, hope, and love surrounding wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers, Veterans, their Families, and Caregivers.
The event was a tribute to these resilient men and women and their Families, and a “salute to their sacrifice.” Perhaps one of the most striking things I learned was that although wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers make incredible sacrifices to protect our nation, their Families also endure incredible sacrifices.
Veterans and Family members from several branches of the military shared their experiences on a panel. Each story reminded the audience that although wounds may heal and scars may disappear, the internal hurt, anger, and pain still lingers.
Eric Shinseki, Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs assured the audience comprised of Soldiers, Veterans, and their Families that he is doing everything in his power to better accommodate those who have served our Nation and to help heal this pain.
“We’re all astounded by the fight in you. Your stories inspire us to be better at our missions,” he said.
Another story of hope and true sacrifice was from AW2 Veteran CPT Alvin Shell, and his wife, Chilketha. Shell, who was severely wounded in 2004 in Iraq, shared his experience of overcoming the hardest time in his life with the help of his Family, especially his wife.
“When I woke up from the medically-induced coma, I saw my mother, father, and wife. I remember immediately everyone loving me,” he said. “My wife looked at me the same way she did on our wedding day. She accepted me for what I was.”
Shell, who now works as the Force Protection Branch Chief at the Department of Homeland Security, claims he wouldn’t be where he is today without the support and love he received from his wife and the rest of his Family. He emphasized that many wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans may not have the same support structure he did when they return home. Shell urged the audience to lend them a helping hand in any way possible.
“I often think, what would I have done if I didn’t have these people in my life to support me. I’m glad to say I’ll never have to know,” he said. “My question is, who is going to be there to support the other Veterans out there? How many of you are going to hold fast to your commitment to Veterans? We have an obligation to serve those who chose to serve this country.”
As one panelist and student Veteran explained, he felt as though “he was in a room completely surrounded by people who want to help.” But many wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans search for that same feeling of assistance and support when they return home, unable to find it immediately. Still, although the forum gave rise to multiple issues and challenges in the system, I think it also helped in paving the way to hope for many.