We’re Moving

By Tracy Freedman, WTC Stratcom

Soldiers help move furniture into shipping containers.

Over the next week, the AW2 blog will be consolidated with the WTC blog, the official blog of the Army Warrior Transition Command.  Your favorite AW2 historical posts as well as new content about warrior care, AW2, Warrior Games, Warrior Transition Units and the Warrior Care and Transition Plan will be available at http://wtc.armylive.dodlive.mil/. Please visit the WTC blog and subscribe today.


Welcome 7 New Organizations to the Community Support Network

By LuAnn Georgia, WTC Stratcom
Please join me in welcoming the newest organizations to the Community Support Network. These organizations offer resources that help better the lives of AW2 Soldiers, Veterans, Families, and Caregivers.  Click on the links below for more information about them and the types of products and services provided.

Type of Organization:  Adaptive Sports and Recreational Services

Type of Organization:  Adaptive Mental Wellness and Counseling; Services for Families, Children, and Caregivers

Type of Organization:  Housing Assistance

Type of Organization:  Career Training, Education, Human Resources Support, and Employment Opportunities

The Community Support Network was created based on direct requests from severely wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers, Veterans, Families and Caregivers.  Soldiers stated that connection with local communities and community leaders was essential for their success and reintegration.  For additional information, visit the Community Support Network webpage. 

Do you know of an organization that wants to assist wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers, Veterans, their Families, and Caregivers?  We are happy to provide membership information to these organizations based on your requests and referrals. Please email contact information to the Community Support Network at: usarmy.pentagon.medcomwtc.mbx.aw2communitysupportnetwork@mail.mil.

AW2 Veteran Shares Inspiring Message at 2012 Warrior-Family Symposium

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.

AW2 Veteran Alvin Shell To Speak at 2012 Warrior-Family Symposium

AW2 Veteran Alvin Shell’s wife Chilketha supported and encouraged him along his path to recovery.

By Allison Kartachak, WTC Stratcom
Retired U.S. Army CPT and AW2Veteran Alvin Shell, who survived traumatic injuries while stationed in Iraq in 2004, believes that even through the toughest times, a positive attitude, faith, and support from Family can allow one to accomplish anything.

As a living testament to this philosophy, Shell is now the Force Protection Branch Officer at the Department of Homeland Security. However, he isn’t quick to forget that he once faced a time when he wasn’t sure if he would ever work again, let alone survive.

On August 31, 2004, while stationed at Camp Victory in Fallujah, Iraq, Shell and his platoon from the 21st Military Police (Airborne) came to the aid of an American convoy  that was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. In an attempt to rescue his platoon sergeant, SGT Wesley Spaid, who caught on fire from the explosion, Shell threw dirt, hugged, and patted him to try to extinguish the flames.  Covered in gasoline, Shell found himself surrounded by fire and realized he needed to run through the flames to escape.

As a result of this traumatic event, Shell suffered severe burns to more than 33% of his body, in addition to several other injuries, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, chronic pain, and muscle loss. When he received his medical retirement from the Army, he also received a 100% disability rating from the Department of Veterans Affairs but chose to continue to fight to heal and work again because his parents “didn’t teach [him] any other way, but to work.”

After 18 months of rehabilitation and more than 30 surgeries, Shell knows better than many that the road to recovery can sometimes seem never-ending, but he chooses to share his story with others, even as he continues to heal.  He attributes much of his strength to his wife Chilketha for her unwavering support and love through the toughest times as she continued to care for their three sons and him, “a husband who couldn’t feed himself.”

“I admire my wife because she is tough as nails,” said Shell.

In his speeches, Shell also shares details of the challenges he faced in successfully landing a job after his injury, and how he persuaded others that he could meaningfully contribute in the workplace despite his injuries.  He notes how he decided to take the challenge of securing a job by focusing on his abilities rather than his disabilities, and he uses his speeches to inspire wounded, ill and injured Soldiers and Veterans to also accept and ultimately conquer this challenge. Shell also recognizes the importance of reminding employers to make a commitment to hiring Veterans.

Shell and his wife both will be panelists Thursday, September 13, at the 2012 Warrior-Family Symposium at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C.  The 2012 Warrior-Family Symposium (WFS), co-sponsored by the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) and the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA), will provide a forum for expanding on the collective efforts of government and non-government organizations, over the last decade, to improve the physical, psychological and overall well-being of wounded, ill, and injured servicemembers and their Families and Caregivers. Follow the conference on Twitter by searching for hashtag #2012WFS.

For more information on career opportunities for wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans, e-mail usarmy.pentagon.medcom-wtc.mbx.career-education-readiness-br@mail.mil.

Proud of My Army

BG Gen Darryl Williams, Commanding General, Warrior Transition Command, shares a light moment with outgoing AW2 Director COL Greg Gadson, who turned over command to COL Timothy Karcher on June 19, 2012. Both Soldiers lost both legs above the knee during deployment to Iraq and remained in the Army through the Continuation on Active Duty (COAD) program.

By Emily Oehler, WTC Stratcom
I wrestled with how to open this blog. It kept coming out a bit like an odd joke – what do you get with one star, two birds, and four prosthetics? A change of command. But, it’s no joke; it was the inspiring transition of leadership at the Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) yesterday. BG Darryl Williams, Commanding General of the Warrior Transition Command (WTC), oversaw the outgoing AW2 Director COL Greg Gadson and incoming Director COL Tim Karcher—both double above the knee amputees due to combat in Iraq. Even COL Greg Gadson joked that it’s a sad state when the Army can’t find two colonels with both their legs.

For me the proudest moments were
•Getting goose bumps as Candice Barlow Jones sang the national anthem acapella  in her soulful, melodic voice to open the ceremony. Her interpretation came with an insider’s understanding of combat and brought that song to life in a new way for me.
•Looking at BG Williams, flanked on both sides by strong proven leaders who are stepping forward to continue to serve, even though they were stepping on titanium legs. Gadson stepping forward to lead as the incoming Fort Belvoir Garrison Commander, and Karcher to lead AW2—the program which supports the Army’s most severely wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers, Veterans, and Families.
•Closing with Veterans, wounded, Soldiers, past AW2 directors, civilians, andcontractors alike united in the Army song—one team with one mission.

I was proud to be a part of such a landmark event and sincerely proud of my Army. I’m proud of an organization that stands by those who are injured in the line of duty, and then supports their long-term career with the option to continue to serve. As BG Williams stated, these two men were leaders before their injuries, and they still are—their careers were just interrupted while they recovered.

Check out the WUSA TV coverage of the event here.

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AW2 Soldiers, Veterans, and Families can submit a blog for AW2 by emailing WarriorCareCommunications [at] conus.army.mil.