Thanks for A Dog Named “Ike” – An Opportunity for More Independence for AW2 Veteran Christopher Paiser

By Jeff Johnson, AW2 Advocate
As an AW2 Advocate, I work with many Soldiers who face significant challenges after sustaining physical and emotional combat injuries, and have the courage to face their challenges and improve their quality of life. One such individual is AW2 Veteran Christopher Paiser. Paiser epitomizes what courage and rising above anything that is thrown against you are all about. His experience also emphasizes that there are many good people in this world who will go out of their way to assist Veterans like Chris.

Paiser deployed to Iraq with the Army National Guard 2nd/108th Infantry out of Morrisonville, NY, as a fire-team leader with 17 years of experience. In 2004, he took his fire team to the Post Exchange (PX) on their day off.  The facility came under rocket fire. He was hit with shrapnel and severely damaged his right eye.

He was medevaced to Baghdad, where doctors removed the shrapnel and then transferred him to Military Treatment Facilities (MTF) in Germany and the United States. Despite a belief that his sight would return in at least one eye, he didn’t regain vision in either. This was, as one might imagine, a very tough time for Chris and his family.

In a recent Press Republican article, Paiser discussed the depression following his injury saying, “I didn’t want to get off the couch or out of bed, and my wife (Mary) would say, ‘You didn’t come home in a box. Move.’”   Paiser went to a rehab center for the blind in Connecticut and learned to use a mobility cane and through these experiences he “was regaining some independence.”

At this point, AW2 connected Paiser with Freedom Guide Dogs for the Blind, an AW2 Community Support Network organization that trains guide dogs for the blind, and Ike, a 2-year-old black Labrador. With this new addition to his Family , Paiser found an even greater sense of freedom and independence as Ike helped him find his way without relying on someone else’s guidance.

From my experience with Chris, it is clear that Freedom Guide Dogs for the Blind is a great resource to assist blind AW2 Veterans like Paiser with finding the courage and perseverance to rise above any challenge on their path to independence. With companions like Ike, Chris and other sight-impaired Veterans can enjoy more freedom to engage in outside activities with Family and community resources.

Paiser recently spoke at an American Legion Veterans Day remembrance ceremony and continues on his way to greater independence.

Keys to a New Future for AW2 Veteran Kevin Snow and Family

AW2 Veteran Kevin Snow and his Family receive a standing ovation and ceremonial keys to their new home before the Giants-Redskins game at MetLife stadium in New Jersey on December 19, 2012.

By Jeff Johnson, AW2 Advocate
As an AW2 Advocate, I am always humbled by the generosity of so many people who reach out to our AW2 Soldiers and Families in need, provide them with the resources to enhance their lives, and give them the opportunity for a better future in their path to independence.

One such Soldier and Family that received a great opportunity for a better future is AW2 Soldier Kevin Snow and his Family of five. On October 11, 2007, Snow, a Purple Heart recipient, was deployed with A Battery, 2nd of the 32nd Field Artillery, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division to Forward Operating Base (FOB) Liberty, Iraq. While deployed, his FOB was subjected to a mortar attack with rounds landing five meters away from Snow.  He sustained shrapnel injuries and subsequently suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI). The Snow Family has faced a myriad of challenges progressing through Snow’s recovery with PTSD and TBI. His Family was supporting him every step of the way through many hurdles and in-patient hospitalizations, especially his wife, Adrienne. The Snows have five children, including two special needs children, and were struggling to find an affordable house for their Family after leaving their last residence.

Mrs. Snow, while researching housing availability, contacted the Military Warriors Support Foundation (MWSF), of San Antonio, Texas, regarding their Homes 4 Wounded Heroes program. The program awards mortgage-free homes to wounded heroes injured during combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. The homes are targeted toward Families who have severe and/or unique circumstances due to their injuries received while serving our country. In addition to the home, the Families receive three years of Family and financial mentoring. After several interviews with the MWSF, the Snow Family was approved for a mortgage-free home located in Atlantic County, New Jersey, donated by Chase Bank, at no expense to the Family. Snow said that the entire process took about four months. This was just the beginning. More was to come for Snow and his Family.

On December 19, Snow and his Family’s service was recognized at an NFL football game between the New York Giants and the Washington Redskins at MetLife Stadium, in New Jersey, courtesy of the MWSF. The foundation also provided travel and hotel accommodations for Snow and his Family.  During the game, the Family received ceremonial keys for their new home, a standing ovation from the crowd, and a meet and greet with many of the NFL officials and sponsors present at the game. Snow commented to me “it’s great what ordinary Americans do in stepping up to assist wounded Soldiers like me, and I am so thankful to them.”

The Family is of course very excited about the new move. The Snow Family will be moving into their new home in Egg Harbor Township, Atlantic County, New Jersey, in the February or March time frame in 2012.   They are looking forward to having a permanent home big enough for their large Family and the stability and peace of mind that brings. The Snow’s are also receiving support from other Veterans who are providing resources to cover their moving expenses, a real plus for a large Family  and again, showing the generosity of so many to our AW2 Families.  Snow, in talking about the experience, stated that “we were in a dire situation, had nowhere to turn and this organization opened up the door and gave us a new start which I am very thankful for.” Snow has attended many AW2 outreach activities and has spoken to groups on behalf of other AW2 Soldiers.

AW2 Soldiers who may be interested in looking at the programs provided by the Military Warriors Support Foundation can go to their web page at

AW2 Advocate Meets with Nebraska Lieutenant Governor to Discuss Community Support for Wounded Warriors

By AW2 Advocate Bill Duerr
AW2 Advocates have a significant role in ensuring that their community is well aware of the fact that there are AW2 Soldiers, Veterans, and Families living right next to them, -going to the same grocery stores and attending the same schools and places of worship. The most significant issue is that we as a community have been given the opportunity and the privilege to be part of their healing process.

AW2 Advocates also have a significant role in ensuring that state and local governments understand that AW2 Soldiers, Veterans, and Families need our care and support.  They must understand their role in leading our communities in care and support of our AW2 Soldiers, Veterans, and Families and are instrumental in helping them achieve their goal of independence.

I feel honored to have been given the duty to serve Nebraska AW2 Soldiers, Veterans, and Families as their AW2 Advocate by reaching out to community leaders. On December 20, 2011, I traveled to the Nebraska State Capital Building in Lincoln to meet one-on-one with Lt. Gov.  Rick Sheehy.  During our 30 minute visit, I shared with him a general overview of AW2.  I also shared the many difficult challenges Nebraska AW2 Soldiers, Veterans, and Families courageously face every single day.

I told him I feel very fortunate to be a part of the great Husker State, and  I shared that there are many ongoing efforts in Nebraska of which I am personally aware to help our Nebraska Soldiers, Veterans, and Families in the areas of healthcare, employment, education, and legal assistance, just to name a few.

I found Lt. Gov. Sheehy to be a warm, caring individual who has supported our Soldiers, Veterans, and Families in the past and will continue to be a support for them in the future. He was elected by the nation’s Lieutenant Governors to lead the National Lieutenant Governors Association (NLGA) as the Associate Chairman of the NLGA.   I spoke with the Governor about this national role and the importance of AW2 to all lieutenant governors) Lt. Gov. Sheehy responded  by telling me about the upcoming NLGA in D.C. and that they have presenters come speak about issues that pertain to all the lieutenant governors.  He said he will keep in contact with me about the upcoming Lieutenant Governors Conference, and I look forward to learning more about how he and all of these public officials continue to support the AW2 population.

AW2 Veteran Helps Honor Arizona’s Fallen Heroes

By Chris Lewandowski, AW2 Advocate

AW2 Veteran Brian Radke participated in the rededication ceremony for Arizona’s Enduring Freedom Memorial on October 29.

Retired SGT Brian Radke, AW2 Veteran, put on his Class A uniform and headed down to the Arizona State Capitol on October 29. Radke volunteered to assist with the rededication ceremony of Arizona’s Enduring Freedom Memorial. The memorial is a tribute to the men and women from Arizona who lost their lives serving our country, and Radke was more than willing to be a part of it. Radke lead the audience in the pledge of allegiance and concluded the ceremony by raising the flag atop the memorial. To him, it was important to just be there.

Radke was injured in October, 2005 on a stretch of highway near Camp Victory in Western Baghdad. He was manning the gun turret of his Humvee when a roadside improvised explosive device blew up the vehicle. The force of the explosion caused Radke to have a stroke and his heart stopped twice. It took eight doctors and 12 hours to stabilize Radke’s shrapnel-ridden body so that he could be transported to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.

Retired SGT Brian Radke and other servicemembers proudly saluted the flag during the rededication ceremony.

He was badly burned, suffered a fractured jaw, a punctured lung, his carotid artery was severed, his arm was broken in four places, and he lost his right index finger. Over the next 26 months he would endure 71 surgeries. Today Radke still has 5 pieces of shrapnel in his brain. More importantly, he still helps.

Radke says he enjoys participating in events like the one in Arizona. In 2006, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) pinned on his Purple Heart during a ceremony at the nation’s Capitol. Earlier this year, Radke served as a grand marshal for the annual Parade of Bands in his hometown of Hazel Dell, Washington. When asked how he felt about participating in these events and the re-dedication of the Arizona Enduring Freedom Memorial ceremony, he stated simply “I’m humbled.”

Radke lives in San Tan Valley Arizona. He is currently enrolled in the Veterans Upward Bound program at Arizona State University where he plans to earn his degree in education.

Educating and Informing Others on AW2 through Hockey

By Stephen Lew, AW2 Advocate

AW2 Advocate Stephen Lew spread the word about AW2 with his local community during the annual Lebanon Valley College vs. Navy Hockey Game during the Military Appreciation Night at Hershey Park Arena on October 28, 2011.

The Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) Advocates often attend events to support AW2 Soldiers, Veterans, and Families and to educate others on the support that AW2 provides for them. I was fortunate to not only be invited, but provide AW2 information and material to attendees during the second annual Military Appreciation Night at the Hershey Park Arena in Hershey, PA.

The night consisted of the Lebanon Valley College (Dutchmen) ice hockey team playing against the Naval Academy team. During the event last year, the Hershey Park Arena hosted the event as a fundraiser for wounded warriors through a nonprofit organization.

As I stood at my AW2 table, the general public came to my display and asked what the difference was between last year’s nonprofit organization and AW2. My response –AW2 is the 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 apply 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, like me, ensure that AW2 Soldiers, Veterans, and their Families are connected with these benefits and services, which span:

  • Career and 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. In the end, The Naval Academy rolled over the Dutchmen by 3 to 2, final score.

Thank you to the Lebanon Valley College ice hockey team head coach, Don Parsons, and assistant coach, John Denver, for connecting the U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Program with this opportunity—and future opportunities—to help members of the community learn more about the Army’s support for wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers, Veterans, and their Families.


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