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Army Wounded Warrior program celebrates 10 years

Apr. 26, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Staff Sgt. Jefferey Redman led the pledge of allegiance at a NASCAR Sprint Cup race in Richmond, Va, in 2013.
Staff Sgt. Jefferey Redman led the pledge of allegiance at a NASCAR Sprint Cup race in Richmond, Va, in 2013. (Courtesy photo)
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After Staff Sgt. Jeffery Redman was wounded in Iraq, his doctors said he would never walk again.

It was 2006, and Redman had suffered severe damage to both legs, a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress.

He was devastated.

“From an early age, all I wanted to do was join the military,” Redman said. “My goal was to be in the military and retire in 20 years, like my uncle. He was my inspiration.”

Redman struggled with his prognosis, battling his physical wounds and the anger he held inside.

But with help from his Army Wounded Warrior advocate, a fellow veteran who understood what he was going through, Redman fought back and is now assigned to the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky.

“As long as I feel like I can remain on active duty, I am going to,” he said. “It’s my dream.”

Redman also credits his AW2 advocate with helping him see his potential as a mentor to other wounded soldiers.

“When I was injured, between Baghdad and Germany, I died nine times on the table,” Redman said. “Mentoring others is the only way I can give back.”

Redman is one of the many success stories of the AW2 program, which marked its 10th anniversary April 22.

In the last 10 years, AW2 has supported more than 19,600 of the Army’s most severely wounded, ill and injured soldiers and their families.

More than 17,650 of those soldiers have retired from the Army, while 1,730 remain on active duty either recovering in hospitals or Warrior Transtiion Units, or in regular units across the force.

Of the 1,730, almost 200 are on active duty after fighting to stay in uniform after they initially were found unfit for duty.

“What makes AW2 unique is that we support the most severely wounded, and our support is completely personalized,” said Col. Johnny Davis, director of the AW2 program.

Each soldier is assigned an AW2 advocate, and that person works with each soldier and family to navigate the medical system and resolve whatever challenges they face, he said.

There are more than 200 AW2 advocates across the country and Europe.

As the Army transitions from more than 13 years of war, it will continue to evaluate and adjust the care and services it provides to its wounded warriors, said Thomas Webb, deputy to the commander of the Warrior Transition Command.

In January, the Army announced it would inactivate five Warrior Transition Units across the country.

“We continue to look at ourselves, we continue to look at our capabilities, at our population and the needs of our Army,” Webb said. “I think in the future you will see us adapt to meet the needs of the Army.”

The demand for these services is declining, but the mission to care for wounded troops doesn’t end when the war does, Davis said.

“This is enduring,” he said. “It’s doing the right things for our soldiers, and we’ll continue to provide support to all our AW2 members, even after they transition.”

Staff Sgt. Julio Larrea, who lost his left leg below the knee in Afghanistan, is a product of the AW2 program and is now a member of the cadre at the Warrior Transition Brigade at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

“I like serving as WTB cadre because it’s a chance to serve,” he said. “I wasn’t done, and by doing what I’m doing, it’s giving me a chance to prove that I’m not done.”

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