Wounded Warriors Speak Up to Improve Warrior Care

By COL Gregory D. Gadson, AW2 Director

AW2 Director Gregory D. Gadson and AW2 Sergeant Major SGM Robert Gallagher cut the ribbon to open the Community Support Exhibit Hall during the first day of the 2011 AW2 Symposium.

It’s great to be in Orlando, FL this week meeting and visiting with our AW2 Soldiers, Veterans, and their Families. Today I had the privilege of welcoming almost 100 delegates to the seventh annual Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) Symposium. For those of you unfamiliar with this program, it is an opportunity for wounded warriors, their spouses, and their caregivers to have a voice in identifying and resolving issues that impact severely wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers and Veterans, and their Families.

The AW2 Symposium is part of the Army Family Action Plan process and a formal way to identify issues and recommend changes to senior Army leaders. In fact, past AW2 Symposium recommendations have resulted in an additional $10,000 in VA housing benefits; a monthly stipend for primary caregivers; and expanded Traumatic Servicemembers’ Group Life Insurance coverage by adding TBI and paralysis in one limb as qualification criteria. Clearly, you can see that the group here this week has a huge responsibility to continue to positively influence the future of Army warrior care. Not to worry, they are dedicated and up to the task.

And, they have an interesting week ahead of them. This week is going to be a combination of hard work, sharing, and networking. We are going to look at issues, identify problems, provide feedback, and celebrate accomplishments. We’ll focus on ways to continue to improve, evolve, and better meet the needs of Soldiers, Veterans, Families, and caregivers. Bottom line – this week is about improving warrior care. Our delegates will be working long days, looking at issues that impact Soldiers, Veterans, and Families across the Army, and on Friday will brief top issues along with recommendations on how to resolve them to AW2, Warrior Transition Command, Medical Command, and Veterans Affairs leaders. We’ll also look at efficiencies, redundancies, and programs that may be obsolete. We want to maximize resources so that they serve the most people.

For the first time, we included delegates from the Warrior Transition Units in this process. BG Darryl A. Williams, Assistant Surgeon General and Commander, Warrior Transition Command, and I believe strongly that combining the experiences and recommendations of these populations will significantly strengthen our alliance and improve our way ahead. We’re similar populations who can learn from and support each other.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that while we are working extremely hard this week, we are also Family-focused. Many children accompanied their parents, and boy, do we have a great week in store for them! Their only job is to play hard and have a good time. The National Military Family Association very graciously offered to host an urban adventure camp that includes swimming, horseback riding, arts and crafts, and lots of other fun activities.

As for me–you all know that I’m a wounded warrior myself. I’m also a firm believer that there is no one better suited to identify the challenges and recommend solutions than those who live and breathe the Army Warrior Care and Transition Program. There are always ways to improve and I’m confident this group of delegates is up for the challenge.

I encourage you to check back on the AW2 blog, AW2 Facebook page, and WTC Twitter page for more updates on the AW2 Symposium throughout the week.

Write a blog for AW2

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