Warrior Games Profile: Caregiver Support

  • Published
  • By Alexx Pons
  • Air Force Wounded Warrior Program

The road to recovery for those who have faced extreme adversity is often not faced alone; true to that spirit, Master Sgt. Jose Rijos, 104th Fighter Wing Security Forces with the Barnes Air National Guard Base in Westfield, Massachusetts, is here supporting one of the 39 athletes representing Team Air Force during the 2018 Warrior Games as a caregiver. 

Caregivers are family members, friends or acquaintances who provides a broad range of non-professional care and assistance for a former military service member with a physical disability, mental injury or illness; currently, there are more than 400 active military caregivers in the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program.

So, we are here at your first Warrior Games as a caregiver; what is going through your mind right now? How are you feeling as your athlete heads into competition? 
Being here for Andres (Master Sgt. Andres Rodriguez) is amazing and a blessing. I have been a program mentor and an ambassador, and now I am here supporting one of our athletes – it is great to see how this role contributes to the overall recovery process. 

How does it feel representing your athlete, and by extension, the Air Force, specifically in this capacity - as a caregiver? 
This is an honor. Being able to be here for him is the pinnacle of the relationship he and I have built. This is a labor of love – for our athletes and their families. We all just feel extremely connected to all our warriors; I could not be prouder to be here in this capacity. 

Do you think your athlete is ready and charged for this year’s competition? What are some of the emotions you are experiencing? 

Andres is solid; I know he is ready. He has been training hard and we have been keeping him on track. He is in the right mindset, he has the heart and now is his time to perform. My key role now is helping him address issues or emotions before competition, so he only needs worry about performing come game time. 

Nothing is without challenge, but perseverance over adversity makes us more resilient. How are all the caregivers coming together to support all these athletes and helping keep morale high?
The nature of what got us here is our conditions, but that has not stopped any of us from overcoming them. In this capacity, we can share resources, network and build support systems. I met people today who I feel I have known for years… that is how powerful this program is. 

This competition is about so much more than medals and winning; what do you personally hope to take away from this experience and what do you want for your athlete?

Of courses my athlete is going to win; he is going to compete and kick butt – that is what we are determined to do and focused on. This entire process and program is part of our recovery… I am here for Andres this time around, and my hope is that when the time comes, he will support me as my caregiver when it is my turn to compete.

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.


Refer an Airman Worksheet

AFW2 Program Mailing Address

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