JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas --
The Air Force Wounded Warrior (AFW2) program is reaching more Airmen, and their families, than ever. Events like the Virtual CARE Week are drawing in people for two reasons; great information and the feeling of connectedness, knowing you are not alone. We try to empower warriors and their families to reach out in their own community for outlets that make them feel connected.
The role I hold now in AFW2 Community Programs, Community Outreach, is tailor made for someone like me who had always worked with various groups to build partnerships and connections. I get the privilege of working on a personal level with the AFW2 community to assist in building connections. Connectedness can mean different things to different people. Learning to listen beyond the words helps me know what the Warrior is really looking for when they fill out their request for resources.
As I learn more and more about the negative effects from lack of socialization and connectedness it motivates me every day to help those who feel alone, not necessarily lonely, but not connected. You can have 1,000 friends on Facebook and feel alone. Or you can have two to three close friends and feel very connected. It is all about how you perceive yourself to be connected and what fulfills you. It has been said that a lack of social connection is a greater detriment to health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure.
I talked with an Airman the other day, who I will call John. John is single and lives alone. John has a job where he sees people in person almost every day. However, he did not feel connected to his neighbors and he has lived there for years. This is not unusual. Even though we have been at home more these days, less in person socializing, many feel isolated. John started to feel alone.
As we talked, I learned he liked to exercise, so I suggested he start walking around his neighborhood. More and more people are skipping the gym due to COVID and using their sidewalks, paths, and streets to get out. Sure enough, weeks later he called to tell me how surprised he was to see he did feel more connected because there were quite a few regular walkers. They greeted each other daily and would often shout across the street with small talk as they passed. This may seem small to some, but to John it was what he was looking for and that is all I need to know.
I love learning more about our Warriors, their family and their current location so I can assist them in finding avenues to help them feel tied to their community, whether it is one new friend, one organization they join, or a group they can join to meet regularly. My next Warrior, or family request, might have greater restrictions, or be unclear on what they need. That is okay. Whomever it is, I will gladly work to get each person started on their path to connectedness, and just maybe, that person will be empowered to reach out to another in their same situation, in the near future. We all do better with support and connections from others.
Every community has avenues for you, sometimes the community groups are virtual and sometimes in person. Reach out to us at AFPC.DPFW.AFW2CommunityPrgm@us.af.mil to #StayConnected #NeverAlone #PayItForward