Wounded Warriors teach resiliency to Team BLAZE

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class John Day
  • 14th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

Two retired master sergeants participating in the U.S. Air Force Wounded Warrior Program visited Team BLAZE to speak of the importance of resiliency Nov. 15 - 18 at Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi.


Chris Aguilera and Lisa Hodgden spoke about their traumatic experiences, the resiliency they showed to overcome their problems and encouraged others to seek assistance. They participated in several events to meet Columbus AFB personnel and tell them their stories.


Early in the week, front line supervisors from Columbus AFB got a chance to hear stories and gain leadership lessons during a lunch with the two Wounded Warriors. Before they met with Col. Douglas Gosney, 14th Flying Training Wing Commander, and other wing staff agency personnel.


On Wingman Day, Nov. 17, Aguilera and Hodgden started the day with a base-wide 5k at the Fitness Center. Afterwards, the Wounded Warriors gave presentations at the Kaye Auditorium detailing their stories.


Hodgden spent 20 years in Security Forces before retiring and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. She is the recipient of the renowned Purple Heart and accompanied by Boston, her service dog who performs medical alert and physical assistance due to injuries received in combat.


“I will always be recovering for the rest of my life, I will never be the same person again,” Hodgden said. “But I have programs at my disposal, I have representatives and advocates, I have people that can help me, I have names and faces I can reach to, and I also have peers. I have those in the program with me that provide a huge pyramid of support. Now I know what (support is available) and where to get it, now I have the courage and strength to seek it and further my recovery.”


Aguilera was an Aerial Gunner on an HH-60G that crashed under heavy enemy fire and eventually had his left leg amputated. He went on to overcome this disability and even participated in the Invictus Games, earning a silver medal in wheelchair basketball.


“I started going down that downward spiral, I started to get stuck in the suck,” Aguilera said. “I wanted my next surgical operation to be my last, to go under and not wake up. But then I realized that I could get better, stronger. I honestly believe that resiliency is inside every one of you, and you can draw that out. No matter what happens, you have friends, family, resources and you have yourself to pull yourself out of that hole.”


After dealing with their demoralizing injuries, Aguilera and Hodgden both utilized the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program, administered by the Air Force Personnel Center to help recover and further deal with their injuries.


“AFW2 has given me people and a support system like Aggie (Aguilera),” Hodgden said. “Having a network is important in resiliency even before you need it. Having people close to you that know and understand you is important. The bottom line is asking for help.”


Their last stop for Wingman Day was to attend Dormsgiving, the enlisted dorm dinner for the month of November. They ended their visit at Columbus AFB after attending the Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training Class Graduation.