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Road to recovery: AFW2 brings Northeast Warrior CARE event to JBA

By Christopher Hurd 11th Wing Public Affairs

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Joint Base Andrews partnered with the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program to host the 2019 Northeast Warrior CARE Event here Nov. 18-22. 

Each year the AFW2 comes to the National Capital Region to provide service to seriously wounded, ill and injured Airmen as well as veterans and their caregivers through caregiver support training, adaptive and rehabilitative sporting events, recovering Airman mentorship training, and employment and career readiness classes. 

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SLIDESHOW | 7 images | Spike this Wounded warriors take part in one of the adaptive sports days during the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program's 2019 Northeast Warrior CARE event on Joint Base Andrews, Md., Nov. 19, 2019. Each year the program comes to the National Capital Region to provide service to seriously wounded, ill and injured Airmen as well as veterans and their caregivers through caregiver support training, adaptive and rehabilitative sporting events, recovering Airman mentorship training, and employment and career readiness classes. (U.S. Air Force photo by Christopher Hurd)

“Our program is so honored to be here and to share the AFW2 mission with Team JBA,” said Marsha Gonzales, Air Force Wounded Warrior Program branch chief. “These CARE events are the perfect opportunity for us to connect with our wingmen across the Air Force and educate them on what our program can do for them and their families.” 

After Airmen enroll in the program, wounded warriors go through a seven-phase continuum of care that starts with the identification of one’s condition and continues through recovery and treatment, rehabilitation, fitness evaluation, stabilization and finishes with sustainment. 

The goal is to leave warriors well-equipped to manage challenges, regardless of injury or illness.

During the week-long event, warriors took part in resiliency days as well as adaptive sports days where they learned how to stay active.   

In addition to the athletic events, there were comedy, art and music resiliency programs, ambassador workshops, speaking events, and employment boot camps.

Another part of the week that was just as big for the attenders was getting to meet and interact with the other wounded warriors. 

“I think that they have given me more perspective on my own [situation],” said Air Force 1st Lt. Jason Hibbetts, wounded warrior and first time CARE event attendee. “Seeing what they’re going through has been very powerful for me.”

All the hard work during training days culminated in sitting volleyball, wheelchair rugby and wheelchair basketball tournaments during the final day. 

The CARE events provided an opportunity for the athletes to heal and recover while also regaining confidence and purpose. 

This year’s event saw several returnees as well as first-timers. 

Retired Tech. Sgt. Lynne Gormley who came to her first CARE event this time last year said that she was apprehensive about coming at first but was sold by the end.

“It was amazing to see smiling faces and watch the people that had been here before with all the comradery and family interaction they had,” she said. “I’m glad I took that step into the unknown.”

Now coming back a year later, she’s been to four CARE events and is an ambassador who advises the first-timers who are apprehensive like she was.

“[I tell them to] hold on for a ride because it’s going to be fun,” she said with a smile. “The friendships you make here, the classes you can take are just tools and steps to help in your recovery.”

More than 8,400 wounded warriors, families and caregivers are being supported by AFW2; the number continues to grow as more wounded warriors are identified. 

Visit www.woundedwarrior.af.mil to learn more about the program, or refer a wounded warrior and search for a local recovery care center.