JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas --
Healing comes in many forms during a person’s journey of recovery. For many warriors enrolled in the Air Force Wounded Warrior (AFW2) Program, healing can present itself through adaptive sports as a form of rehabilitation. While the adaptive sports journey leads many to compete in a local or national level, only a select few qualify to represent Team U.S. at the Invictus Games, earning a chance to compete against countries from around the world. Now, for the first time ever, Team U.S. athletes will participate in an AFW2 Ambassador workshop, shaping their personal testimonies of recovery through adaptive sports and sharing them with the rest of the world.
The AFW2 Program hosted a two-day virtual ambassador workshop, October 29-30, for Team U.S. athletes who will be competing at the 2021 Invictus Games in The Hague. The AFW2 outreach team facilitated the workshop, delivering guided instruction on how adaptive sports has positively influenced the athletes’ journey of recovery. The workshop provided warriors the tools needed to share their personal stories with confidence and professionalism.
“By participating in the ambassador workshop, the attendees learned best practices for effective public speaking, finding their voice to encourage others through shared experiences, and receive a platform to advocate for fellow recovering service members,” said Melissa Wiest, AFW2 Outreach program manager.
Handpicked and nominated by their service leads, this joint service effort hosted 11 warriors from Army, Navy, Marines, and Special Operations Command (SOCOM). In addition, three Air Force ambassador mentors attended and offered their support, experience, and perspective as trained ambassadors.
As the athletes geared up for this first ever event, some may have been nervous to learn how to effectively share their testimonies of recovery, but were willing to be better advocates for their fellow wounded warriors. Retired Army Capt. Tim Bomke, looked forward to representing his service branch, Team U.S., and positively applying the ambassador training to his everyday life.
“We are our own best advocates and our stories should be heard firsthand,” said Tim Bomke, 2021 Invictus Games athlete. “We also have long-term, or lifetime, recoveries. I feel the ambassador training helped me be a lifelong and effective advocate for the wounded, injured, and ill community and their caregivers.”
The ambassador workshop could pave the way external audiences see adaptive sports as a form of healing and bring forth a new platform for warriors, of all service branches, to share and spread their message. The workshop also served as a foundation in the way other Invictus Games teams can apply ambassador training within their own warrior population.
“We are going to be putting together short testimonial videos, over the next couple of months, which will really reinforce how athletes use sports as part of their recovery and highlight how the wounded warrior program, from their service branches, have helped them,” said Marsha Gonzales, AFW2 Warrior Care Support branch chief. “This could be the way ahead for future Invictus Games teams, providing strong and professionally trained speakers to help further spread the important message the Games focus on.”
Be sure to tune in to the AFW2 Facebook page and witness our weekly virtual events hosted by our warriors, caregivers, and staff members. To learn more about the AFW2 Program, or to refer an Airman, visit www.woundedwarrior.af.mil, for additional information and resources.