Offutt Hosts Wounded Warrior CARE Event

  • Published
  • By Drew Nystrom
  • 55th Wing Public Affairs

Offutt’s Air Force Wounded Warrior CARE event wrapped-up with a closing ceremony Sept. 22 after more than 120 Wounded Warriors, their caregivers and families seriously or very seriously wounded, ill or injured Total Force recovering service members and their caregivers and families seriously or very seriously wounded, ill or injured Total Force recovering service members and their caregivers and families spent four days exploring the vast network of support open to them.


The event, sponsored by the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program, provided participants focused and personalized service through caregiver support training; adaptive and rehabilitative sports events; recovering Airman mentorship training; employment and career readiness guidance; and music and art therapy.


“Offutt and the entire local community were honored to not only host this event, but to have the opportunity to show our support for our brothers and sisters who have answered their nation’s call,” Col. Marty Reynolds, 55th Wing commander said. “One of the things that distinguishes the profession of arms from others is that we have each made a vow to never leave a member behind and this event is a concrete example of that promise.”


CARE is an acronym derived from the various components of the event that aimed to provide a holistic approach to healing: Caregiver Support; Adaptive & Rehabilitative Sports; Recovering Airman Mentorship Program; and Employment & Career Readiness.


"Often times, the Warriors are told what they can't do, but we get them here and show them what they can do," Marsha Gonzales, Air Force Wounded Warrior branch chief, said. “So we introduced them to what they can do and surrounded them with a support system that's going to facilitate restoring wellness and function into their life.”


The Warriors trained and competed in wheelchair basketball, sitting volleyball, swimming, air pistol and rifle shooting, archery and cycling. They also participated in track-and-field competitions, including shot-put, discus and running events at venues including the Offutt Field House, the parade grounds and the base lake in order to aid in their recovery and promote mental and physical wellness and teamwork.


 For many of the participants, this event was their first experience with the Wounded Warrior program and they didn’t know what to expect.


“I was really anxious, I didn't want to be here at first,” retired Air Force member Kelly Patterson said. “But after four days, you have a new family and the same camaraderie you had in the military.”


Staff Sgt. Melinda Smith, a Wounded Warrior battling multiple sclerosis, echoed Patterson’s sentiment.


“We all relate to each other, but we’re all different,” Smith said. “I enjoy the camaraderie. It’s the people, my Wounded Warrior family.”

The planning and coordination required to execute an event of this scope took a dedicated nine-person team of Offutt Airmen led by Maj. Michael Shick, 55th Wing North Central Warrior CARE Event lead planner, several months and nearly 1,200 man-hours to ensure success.


“My team and I were excited about this opportunity to give back to those who have given so much of themselves,” Shick said. “We believe this was a great way for the Air Force and community to give back to these men and women, and their families and, we were honored to be a part of this humbling event.”


In addition to the core planning team, the event itself required the efforts of 99 Offutt volunteers who put-in more than 3,100 man-hours over the course of the event, making sure everything went off without a hitch.


As a testament to how well Team Offutt performed, the Air Force Wounded Warrior program has already designated Offutt as a site to hold another CARE event next year at a time and date to be announced.


For more information about the Air Force Wounded Warrior program, go to the AFW2 website