–By Sarah Greer, AW2 Stratcom–
AW2 delegates filed into the Symposium Opening Ceremony this morning as an Army band played Ruffles and Flourishes. The room buzzed with excitement and activity. Delegates were anxious to get started on the week’s business: telling the Army what they really think.
AW2 Sergeant Major SGM Brent R. Jurgersen welcomed the crowd and reminded us why we are here in San Antonio: to discuss 70 issues raised by AW2 Soldiers, Veterans, and Families over the last year. “It’s time to get busy,” he said. Over the next four days, AW2 delegates will determine which five issues should be raised to Army leadership.
“The Army, Warrior Transition Command, and AW2 want to get this right,” Jurgersen said, “and your efforts will affect the Soldiers that follow you.”
AW2 Director COL Jim Rice echoed this sentiment. “Your mission this week is to identify issues most important to you that you believe will make a difference in how the Army serves wounded warriors.”
WTC Commander BG Gary H. Cheek emphasized the Symposium’s importance in helping AW2 delegates move forward with their lives. “The goal is to enable AW2 Soldiers to get to a future that is rich in opportunity,” he said. “You have retained the core of your essence and abilities, and we want to help you focus on your abilities, not your current state and disabilities. What do you want to do with your life? You have to make that decision, and AW2 is here to help.”
The focus groups are already off to a strong start. AW2 Symposium delegates are divided into five Focus Groups based on the issues of most concern to them: Careers, Family, Medical I, Medical II, and Veterans Affairs.
Each Focus Group will work through 10-15 issues submitted by AW2 Soldiers, Veterans, and Families over the last several months and determine which two issues are most important to the members of the group. At the end of the Symposium, they will vote and report their top five issues to Army leadership and suggest solutions for correcting the issues. Each Focus Group is led by a trained facilitator and includes a subject matter expert the delegates can turn to for factual information.
“I was surprised at how quickly the Family Focus Group gelled,” said AW2 Advocate Ann Yingling. “Within the first few minutes, I could see the group would work well together.”
Advocate Patti Walker is the Advocate Mentor in the Medical II Focus Group. “I’ve been to a Symposium before, so I told my delegates to be patient – this week will be therapeutic for them,” she said. “Within hours, they were already coming to tell me I was right.”
Operation Purple Camp
Campers were most excited yesterday about the opportunity to connect with other children of wounded warriors.
“This is the first time the boys have gotten to meet other kids whose parents were injured in the war,” said AW2 Advocate and spouse Kathreyn Harris.
“I expected my eight-year-old to enjoy Operation Purple Camp,” said AW2 spouse Christina Grimes, “but my teenage daughter was even more excited. She met three other girls whose fathers had traumatic brain injuries, and they spent most of yesterday talking about their experiences. We’ve been looking for programs for the kids, and there’s nothing out there like this!”
Today, Operation Purple Camp hosted a Texas Day. Campers went horseback riding and visited the Alamo, Texas’s most famous landmark, right in the heart of San Antonio. Tonight, while their parents are occupied for Couples’ Night Out, AW2 kids will enjoy a “Flick and Float” night at the YMCA. They’ll enjoy a private movie screening and then dive into the pool for a celebration of their own.
Couples’ Night Out
In this morning’s Opening Ceremony, SGM Jurgersen also reminded delegates that the Symposium is a time to “reconnect with your family and your comrades.” Tonight, Operation Purple Camp and child care are giving the parents a night off to enjoy San Antonio and to spend time together.
Ten delegates won dinner at Chart House Restaurant at the 750-foot Tower of the Americas, with breathtaking views of the entire city. Other delegates are planning to enjoy the many restaurants and water taxis along San Antonio’s romantic and historic Riverwalk.