JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii --
The Air Force Wounded Warrior (AFW2) program helps rehabilitate service members who were wounded or fell ill during duty.
This week, a U.S. Pacific Air Forces Wounded Warrior CARE event is taking place to help celebrate and support the spiritual, mental, and physical well-being of the service members turned athletes.
One of the participants is Senior Airman Faith Donato, 647th Security Forces Squadron. Due to a tragic accident and diagnosis of fibromyalgia, she will be medically retired in late February.
“In 2016, she was struck by a tour bus,” said former U.S. Marine Cpl. Michael Donato, Faith’s husband and caregiver. “She was pinned and twisted pretty badly, and it caused nerve damage in her upper back.”
From there, she was moved to an administrative job due to her injury, but the pain started increasing.
Mayo Clinic describes fibromyalgia as widespread musculoskeletal pain that can come in conjunction with sleep deprivation, mood issues, and fatigue. It is genetic, but it can surface or worsen via severe psychological or physical stress, which is why Faith’s condition degraded after her accident.
“On a good day, she might be able to run,” Michael said. “On a bad day, she can barely walk.”
After being placed on medical leave, Faith underwent a medical examination board. During this process, the Donato family first learned about the AFW2 program. Hesitantly, the couple started attending in January of 2019.
“She was depressed and very unhappy, and it was a nightmare for both of us,” Michael said. “This program saved her life, my life, and our marriage. It’s wonderful that we have these kinds of resources available to us.”
Although Michael originally planned to retire with the Marine Corps, he finished his 4-year tour and separated to ensure his wife is cared for.
“I couldn’t in good conscious leave my wife at home and be gone for six months at a time,” Michael said. “I had to completely change my life’s plan, but that’s what you do for people you love.”
“When I started my healing journey, I had to become a new version of myself,” Faith said. “With this program, we were able to work on our healing both individually and as a couple.”
Through their hardships, they’ve both managed to become better and happier thanks to their involvement with AFW2.
“Our limits were tested because we were literally at rock bottom,” Faith said. “Being able to grow in this program together allowed us to reconstruct our relationship from the ground up. We came into this program broken, but now we have the foundation to rebuild.”
Editor’s Note: CARE stands for: Caregiver, Adaptive Sports & Ambassador, Resiliency & Recovering Airman Mentorship, and Empowerment in Transition.