2011 Wounded Warrior Federal Employment Conference Kicks Off Tomorrow

By Sarah Greer, WTC Stratcom

For wounded warriors who separate from the service, finding gainful employment is a vital next step.  It’s not just about the paycheck and health care, though—it’s about contributing to an organization, finding professional fulfillment, and building a better life for themselves and their Families.

For the next two days, AW2 is hosting the 2011 Wounded Warrior Federal Employment Conference, in coordination with other service wounded warrior programs.  For two days, federal agency officials will learn about the importance of hiring wounded warriors and the skills they bring to any organization.  They’ll also learn about the resources they can use to place qualified Veterans in open positions and to ensure a successful result once the Veterans starts working–resources like special hiring authorities, Veterans preference, Operation Warfighter internships, non-paid work experience, and accommodations.

On the second day, local wounded warriors from all branches of the military will also have the opportunity to network with the officials attending the conference. 

AW2 is here to help severely wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers find their path to independence.  And this conference is one more example of the way AW2 paves the way for wounded warriors to succeed.

Check back to the AW2 blog over the next two days for more information about the conference.  We’ll keep you posted on the updates from keynote speakers, including several Assistant Secretaries and AW2 Veteran Alvin Shell, who is now working at the Department of Homeland Security.

Wounded in Action Exhibition Allows Women Veterans to Share Experiences

By Laura Castillo, AW2 Advocate

(left to right) AW2 Veteran Leslie Wohlfeld and AW2 Advocate Laura Castillo traveled from New York to Washington, DC, to see Wohlfeld’s photography on display at the “Wounded in Action” exhibition.

Recently, I had the honor of attending the “Wounded in Action” art exhibition with several accomplished female Veterans at the National Museum of Health and Medicine at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, DC. It was truly amazing to share in their experiences, accomplishments, and passion to help wounded Veterans.

The exhibition is a tribute to those who served their countries in wars throughout the world. The art celebrates the strength and spirit of injured servicemembers, wounded civilians, and their Families, as well as the commitment of the orthopedic surgeons who assist them on their journey to recovery. The artists featured in “Wounded in Action: An Art Exhibition of Orthopedic Advancements” explore their feelings toward their wounds. The artists include military personnel who live with orthopedic injuries, Family members who helped during the recovery process, and orthopedic surgeons who treat wounded military members and civilians.

First, I met up with two of my AW2 Veterans, Leslie Wohlfeld and Paula Rivera, at Penn Station in New York City to begin our journey to Washington, DC. Having a degree in photography, Leslie escaped the stress from combat in Afghanistan through her artwork. One of her pieces, “Peace,” was submitted in the exhibit. Leslie’s mother recently passed away, and her mother was never able to go see her work at the museum. It meant the world for Leslie to experience that moment with fellow Veteran women who understand her pain and trauma.

Paula Rivera served 20 years in the Army, with two tours in Iraq. Paula suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and many other medical conditions triggered by combat. However, Paula is one of the strongest people I’ve ever met. She is brave and has overcome war wounds and trauma, while raising a Family and maintaining a healthy relationship with her husband of 30 years.

Once we reached Union Station, the Wounded Warrior Project van picked us up and I met the gifted women in our group. Once in the van, I noticed a photo of group member Nancy Schiliro. Nancy is a former Marine who was hit by a mortar in Iraq. As a result, she lost her eye and sustained shrapnel wounds to her face. Nancy now works with the Wounded Warrior Project and is in charge of Project Odyssey, a series of rehabilitative retreats for women, men, and couples in various locations throughout the country.

Cara Hammer, another Veteran woman, also accompanied us. She served in Iraq and is now a representative for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). Cara communicates local issues to higher chains of command, and identifies them on Capitol Hill in order to facilitate changes in warrior care—as well as address current needs, such as employment.

Maria Canales, an Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) Veteran, participates in wounded warrior support activities, such as the 10K marathon for wounded Veterans in New York. Maria has met many wounded Veterans and provides a shoulder to cry on and a listening ear.

Megan Gingrich worked as a nurse in the Air Force. She has provided medical care for our wounded Veterans and has seen first hand the trauma of war. She is a Reservist and continues her education as a pre-medicine student.

It was such an honor to be surrounded by phenomenal women. All have served this country and continue to serve our population as civilians. They were very well aware of AW2 and its mission. They have met AW2 Advocates throughout their journeys and believe in our program. It felt great to know that our mission is being executed nationwide. I was also amazed at their strength. I see how these women have taken matters into their own hands and have made a difference in the lives of others. We all share a passion to assist wounded Veterans.

Whether it is through art, personal sacrifice, Family and friend support, or individual drive, Veteran women are making a difference. I am thankful for the opportunity to meet these women and look forward to connecting with them in the future on our journey to accomplish our common mission—to help wounded warriors.

Editor’s Note: Wounded in Action: An Art Exhibition of Orthopedic Advancements is a traveling exhibit, if you are interested in viewing it visit their website at http://www.woundedinactionart.org/index.php for locations and dates. 

Educating and Informing Others on AW2 through Hockey

By Stephen Lew, AW2 Advocate 

(left to right) AW2 Veteran Robert Casler and his AW2 Advocate Stephen Lew catch up during Military Appreciation Night at Hershey Park Arena.

As an AW2 Advocate, we attend events to support AW2 Soldiers, Veterans, and Families and to educate others on the support that AW2 provides for them. I attended the first ever Military Appreciation Night where the Lebanon Valley College (Dutchmen) Ice Hockey Team came to face off the Naval Academy Ice Hockey Team at the Hershey Park Arena in Hershey, PA.

Hershey Park Arena hosted this event as a fundraiser for wounded warriors through the nonprofit organization the Wounded Warrior Project, also known as WWP. This organization organizes fundraising activities and provides services and resources for wounded warriors.

As I stood at my AW2 table, I realized there is a common misconception that the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) is the same thing as AW2. AW2, the Army Wounded Warrior Program, is the official U.S. Army program serving severely wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers since 9/11. AW2 is Army lead and designed by the Soldier for the Soldier. AW2 works inside the network of Army, government, and local and national resources to help Soldiers, Veterans, and their Families resolve many issues. Wounded warriors may be eligible for a wide array of benefits in order to help them recover physically, prepare financially, and build their skills for a rewarding career. AW2 Advocates will ensure that AW2 Soldiers, Veterans, and their Families are connected with these benefits and services, which span:

  • Career & Education
  • Insurance
  • Finance
  • Retirement and transition
  • Healthcare
  • Services for Families
  • Human Resources

It was a great opportunity to inform and educate numerous Veterans and non-Veterans about AW2 and great to see Veterans, active military, and civilians gather together. One of my AW2 Veterans, Robert Casler really enjoyed the game with his Family and seeing Veterans from all branches. In the end, Lebanon Valley Dutchmen rolled over the Naval Academy with a six to one final score and thousands of dollars were donated to support wounded warriors.

Thank you to the Lebanon Valley College Ice Hockey Team Head Coach, Tony Horacek and Assistant Coach, Spiros Anastasiadis, for connecting wounded warriors with this opportunity and future opportunities. I also thank the Wounded Warrior Project for complimenting the Army Wounded Warrior Program—we can’t do it alone.

Veterans Affairs Caregiver Support Line Opens

By Alan Morales, WTC Stratcom

Day in and day out caregivers provide the support and care necessary to assist wounded warriors in achieving a successful transition post injury. However, it’s no secret that sometimes those we rely on for support are the ones that need support themselves—including those that support Army wounded warriors.

Last week the Department of Veteran Affairs opened the National Caregiver Support Line to serve as the resource and referral center for caregivers, Veterans, and others seeking caregiver information. The support line provides referrals to local VA medical center caregiver support coordinators who can provide information, education, and referrals to appropriate VA and community resources.

AW2 caregivers deserve additional support and, thanks to the Department of Veterans Affairs, there is now one more resource for them to access. The National Caregiver Support Line is open Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. and Saturday 10:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. The National Caregiver Support Line Toll-free number is 1-855-260-3274.

What other resources do caregivers find helpful? If you have a resource in mind and would like to share this information with the Army wounded warrior community, please comment below or send your suggestions to warriorcarecommunications@conus.army.mil.

AW2 Veterans and Families Soldier on While Helping Those That Follow

By Tania Meireles, WTC Stratcom

I felt like a nervous kid who was about to meet a room full of celebrities. For me, AW2 Soldiers, Veterans, and their Families are celebrated people—they are my heroes. I see their pictures and hear their stories and when I have an opportunity to meet them in person—it is a rare and unforgettable privilege.

Last week eight AW2 Veterans and Family members, who participated in the 2010 AW2 Symposium , participated in the Army Family Action Plan (AFAP) Worldwide Conference. At the AFAP Worldwide Conference, delegates voted on issues presented at previous conferences to be selected for presentation to Army leadership.

Matthew Staton

To my left was Matthew Staton, AW2 Veteran and direct advisor and staff assistant to the Secretary of the Army on wounded Soldier matters. Staton has learned to capitalize on assistive technology—such as smartphones—to keep organized and combat memory issues. He advocates for the Department of Defense Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program, or CAP, that provides technologies to assist those with disabilities throughout the Defense Department and other federal agencies. He is optimistic about an upcoming surgery to alleviate some pain he is experiencing. “It will improve my quality of life,” he said. “Even though I won’t be too mobile for a while, I have the capabilities to work and be productive from home.”  

James Howard and Anne Hall

James Howard and his wife Anne Hall believe the AW2 Symposium and AFAP conference have a good process to focus on topicsand be productive. “I loved the AW2 Symposium,” said Hall. “I am proud of the AW2 issues and it is rewarding to see the AFAP process firsthand.” They have been extremely busy volunteering with several organizations that support Soldiers, Veterans, and Families. “We’ve been seeking out Veterans in our area to mentor too,” said Howard. “Helping others is very rewarding.” 

Delano and Melissa Smith, who are notorious for their amazing clothes, were dressed to the nines and with personalities even more remarkable. “I am a passionate person,” he said about participating in AFAP. “I put myself in the shoes of the Soldiers coming behind us.” His wife agreed, “We want to make it easier for the next ones,” she said. They are “settling into life” post injury. He is currently

Delano and Melissa Smith

attending college courses and said it was an “uphill but rewarding battle” because of his memory issues. At the AW2 Symposium last year, they met an AW2 Family with a service dog who helps the AW2 Soldier with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They are currently working with an organization to receive a service dog of their own and are very excited about this new member of their Family.

The Smiths gave me a big hug before they went back to their focus group discussions, and I was honored to spend a few minutes speaking to the delegates and sharing in their strength.

To learn more about the AFAP conference, visit the WTC Blog.

Write a blog for AW2

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