Wounded Warrior: The only definition that matters

  • Published
  • By Shawn Sprayberry
  • Air Force Wounded Warrior Program

He followed his military working dog up to the second floor of a building where he was blown up, losing a leg and part of an arm. He returned to active duty and still wears the uniform to this day. This makes him a Wounded Warrior. 

She was driving down the road in Kuwait when a large vehicle ran her off the road, pinning her under the vehicle. The damage to her leg leaves her in pain most days, impacting her overall quality of life that eventually led to her medical retirement. This makes her a Wounded Warrior. 

He fractured his leg in multiple places following a dirty tackle while playing rugby in the United Kingdom, which led to years of “limb salvage”; a painful process that involved multiple surgeries and pins to help the bone heal. In the end he decided to have the leg amputated as it was no longer operating the way it should and was reducing his quality of life. Despite his injury he remains on active duty, spending back-to-back deployments in Afghanistan proving he is still capable of performing. This makes him a Wounded Warrior. 

He deployed in support of an Army unit, patrolling in and around some of the harshest environments where he witnessed atrocities too many to name. While his physical injuries continue to plague him to this day it's the invisible wounds caused by the trauma he witnessed that leaves him the most troubled. This makes him a Wounded Warrior.

In AFW2, a Wounded Warrior is defined as someone who is very serious or seriously wounded, ill or injured. They have complex medical issues that keep them from performing one or more tasks in the military, many facing medical retirement following years of treatment. They are not all combat-wounded or injured, many have developed life-changing illnesses or have been injured in off-duty accidents. From the young lady who crashed her motorcycle into a tree and lost her leg to the young man who jumped into a lake, fracturing his neck and damaging his spinal cord, the issues that bring Airmen into this program are varied. 

What is most alarming to us is when a Wounded Warrior says, “This program is not for me.” They have seen the commercials and movies and feel the only way to be called a “Wounded Warrior” is to be involved in a combat-related scenario that leaves them catastrophically wounded. This often leaves them with the feeling that the program offers them nothing they can benefit from. This is not true. 

If a person is enrolled in our program, whether due to a situation in a combat zone or one at home, they are Wounded Warriors, and this program is for them. As soon as we enter their name into our case management system they become a member of a very small, but continuously growing family, one that will help them from the moment they are wounded, become ill, or are injured until the day they die. This program is for them and we want them to know that we are here to help. 

The role of AFW2 is to advocate for seriously, or very seriously, wounded, ill, or injured Airmen. We provide them personalized service and support, which means we will do whatever it takes to make sure they have the information and resources at their disposal to make the best decision possible. Some of them we are able to help return to duty while others we help with the transition and warm hand-off to the VA. Either way it happens we put 100% into everything we do, all with the goal of providing the best service we can possibly provide, despite the severity of their issue which defines our motto, “CareBeyondDuty.” 

It is this help that means the most for many of the Wounded Warriors enrolled in our program. The young man who lost his leg after a rugby injury says, “This program truly saved my life.” We advocated for him in a time of need, helping him get the resources he needed to transition into his new life as an amputee. 

So, if you’re reading this and know someone who might benefit from the services we provide, tell them about us. If they don’t think they are a “Wounded Warrior” let them know what you read here today and help them understand that it’s just a term, it’s the services we provide that are most important.

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Anyone can refer an active-duty Airman into the AFW2 program; download the worksheet by clicking the button below and submit the finalized form via email.


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AFW2 Program Mailing Address

  • ATTN: AFW2
  • 550 C St. West, Ste. 37
  • JBSA Randolph TX
  • 78150-4739