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.
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 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
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.