Warrior Games Profile: John Angel

  • Published
  • By Colo.
  • Air Force Wounded Warrior Program
Master Sgt. John Angel enlisted in the Air Force in 1983 as an aerospace ground equipment technician.

He has been stationed stateside and overseas and has deployed more than 20 times in his 35 years of military service; Angel is now part of the Air National Guard and has serves at the 117th Air Reserve Wing in Birmingham, Alabama.  

“The biggest struggle for me was having to let go of who I once was and find who I am now. I have always been an Airman and lived a very active lifestyle; it felt like I hit a brick wall after my injury and the illnesses it caused,” Angel said.

So, what happened to you? Tell me a bit about your injury. 
I had just returned home from a six-month deployment, when not even a week later I found myself in a critical care unit; completely unable to answer basic questions about myself: ‘who are you, when were you born, who is the president?’. After some extensive digging by medical professionals, it was determined that I had been exposed to some sort of unknown bacterium and acquired a rare disease known as chronic query fever that now causes and compounds several medical conditions. 

How did your injury make you feel? 
Physically, I literally could not walk more than five feet without almost passing out, and I was always very active with things like kayaking and marathons. Mentally, I did not know who I was. I went from someone who was very seldom sick, to someone who literally had multiple medical appointments and required weekly physical therapy. I had everything from MRIs, CTs, spinal taps, and lung and liver biopsies to mention a few.

Can you talk about how your injuries have impacted your personal life and career?  
I would say it is the struggle of letting go of who I used to be and trying to come to terms with what doctors have told me my life will look like moving forward. Career wise, I went from someone who was ambitious and progressing academically, to having an impossible time remembering one page to the next of text I just read – it made me feel like a failure… beyond frustrated and embarrassed at times with himself. 

And how did you overcome those feelings and those personal challenges?  
I try to consider them opportunities now. Regardless, I must face them every day, but now I have a stronger support system with my AFW2 (Air Force Wounded Warrior Program) family. They have shown me that even though my wounds are invisible (except for my oxygen “Luna pack”), I am not alone in this battle; neither are my wife and family. 

What has keeps you motivated during some of the more tough times in your recovery process?  
My wife and the AFW2 family are my strongest support systems. I will admit I regret not coming to the first few AFW2 events I was invited to; I felt it was reserved for the worst of the worst. However, my wife encouraged me to get involved finally and once I tried adaptive sports I was able to find a new focus other than just my illness. The support of the program. and the amazing coaches and staff who genuinely care showed me I am more than my injury or illness… that I am just an adaptive version of who I was.

At what point did you decide to get involved with Warrior Games and the competitive aspect of these adaptive sports?  
The AFW2 program and the opportunities they offered to find new interest and outlets for recover opened me up to the idea of competition. Besides, we all know exercise is good for the soul.

What do you personally hope to take from the warrior games?  
I may be a wounded warrior with invisible wounds, but I am proving to myself I can do whatever I set my mind to and will not give up. Who knows, maybe that will inspire others.

In what ways has this positively impacted you throughout your recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration process? 
I have found an inner strength I did not know existed after my first AFW2 event. Though I am not who I once was, I would like to think I will be an even better version of myself after going through this journey.

Why do you think it is so important that others know about the AFW2 program? 
I can say for someone in the Guard or Reserve it is not a well-known program, nor a straightforward process to join or be vetted into this program. I wish more information about the AFW2 program had been there from the beginning… I do not think I would have felt so useless and lost had it found me sooner.

Speaking of, how does the AFW2 program help wounded warriors in their recovery process? 
It has so many layers of support; it provides opportunities for exploration to the new normal, builds networks of support with other warriors, provides opportunities to find new interest and outlets which opens so many other doors… this program is just healing. 

What do you hope people will take away from watching athletes compete in Warrior Games?
I hope this inspires others to have more awareness of wounded warrior programs, and possibly to gain more support for all our wounded, ill and injured service members.

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