SAN ANTONIO, Texas –
The Air Force Wounded Warrior Program, or AFW2, welcomed wounded warriors and caregivers from around the country for a hybrid CARE event, featuring a combination of in-person and virtual attendees. The CARE event focuses on the various support programs AFW2 offers, while also providing the face-to-face interaction many of them so desperately need.
“We are so glad to see our wounded warriors and caregivers in person again,” said Marsha Strawderman, AFW2 Support Branch Chief. “While talking to them on Zoom and on the phone helps us stay connected, it’s the actual face-to-face interactions that are essential.”
COVID-19 had a huge impact on those face-to-face interactions, creating a sense of isolation among many wounded warriors and staff alike. In early 2020, AFW2 began looking for new ways to stay connected with wounded warriors, leading to virtual services delivery through Zoom and on social media. As the restrictions began to lift, we began looking to merge the virtual capabilities with the in-person connections for a hybrid that will lead to further capabilities in the months to come.
“You can’t read body language and the subtle cues on Zoom, so being in-person helps us be more effective in our communications,” said Strawderman. “But we know that many wounded warriors and caregivers struggle with traveling and being in crowded places, so blending these capabilities will greatly increase how we reach those enrolled in our program.”
Many of those attending this week have had the opportunity to be a part of both the virtual and in-person events, staying connected despite social distancing and vaccine and mask mandates. Those who have had the chance to experience both see benefits to a hybrid event like this.
“Coming together after extended isolation has been very helpful,” said retired Staff Sgt. Clifton Flint. “It helps wounded warriors who may have spent the last year avoiding engagements, choosing to stay in their heads. Coming together helps them and helps me.”
AFW2 hosts a CARE event every November as part of Warrior Care Month, a Department of Defense recognition highlighting the service’s programs and resources available to wounded, ill, and injured Service members, as well as their families, caregivers, and others who support them. Last year it was held virtually, with Zoom workshops and sporting events used to stay connected. This year though, we’ve finally been able to come together in person, both to provide education on our support programs and to highlight the mission of warrior care programs across all the services.
“Many professionals working in the DoD make it their year-round mission to ensure exceptional care is provided to wounded, ill, and injured Service members,” said Gilbert R. Sisneros Jr., Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, in a memo to the services. He went on to say, “November provides a unique opportunity to recognize those working in warrior care. It is also evident in the commitment the DoD reaffirms daily, to provide our Service members, their families, and caregivers with the care and support they deserve.”
earn more about the AFW2 Program on our website at www.woundedwarrior.af.mil.