HomeNewsArticle Display

A Day That Resonates

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Trevor Brewer, 72nd Security Forces Squadron assistant flight chief, speaks during the opening ceremony of the 2018 South Central Warrior CARE Event at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, Jan. 8, 2018. Brewer suffers from invisible wounds, specifically post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), steaming from a terrorist attack that took place overseas in March 2011. (U.S. Air Force photo by Sean M. Worrell)

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Trevor Brewer, 72nd Security Forces Squadron assistant flight chief, speaks during the opening ceremony of the 2018 South Central Warrior CARE Event at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, Jan. 8, 2018. Brewer suffers from invisible wounds, specifically post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), steaming from a terrorist attack that took place overseas in March 2011. (U.S. Air Force photo by Sean M. Worrell)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas --

 

By looking at him you wouldn’t know it, but Tech Sgt. Trevor Brewer, a flight chief with the 72nd Security Forces Squadron at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, has deep scars from a day seven years ago that took the lives of two fellow Airmen, and severely wounded two others. His wounds are invisible. He has post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from a terrorist attack many may have heard news reports about and forgotten. But, Brewer has not forgotten that day… he relives those moments constantly.

 

I was just waiting for my time to die

 

In March 2011, then Staff Sgt. Brewer and his fellow Airmen from the 48th Security Forces Squadron at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, arrived at Germany’s Frankfurt Airport on their way to a deployment to Kandahar, Afghanistan. Soon after they boarded a bus bound for Ramstein Air Base, Brewer heard what he described as pops, almost like a vehicle running over a rock. Initially he thought nothing of it, until he saw a man board the bus, armed with a pistol.

 

“Allahu Akbar,” screamed the intruder as he pulled the trigger, killing the bus driver. In that split second, Brewer realized someone was there to kill them and he took cover.

 

“There was nowhere for me to go,” Brewer said emotionally. “I put my head between my knees and said, ‘goodbye.’ I was just waiting for my time to die.”

 

While his head was down, all he heard over and over was “Allahu Akbar,” followed by nonstop gunfire. He vividly recalls the smell of gunpowder overwhelming his nostrils. His senses were on fire as he lost track of time. That is, until the gunman arrived at Brewer’s seat, and they locked eyes.

 

“At first, I was focused on the barrel of the gun, but then I looked into his eyes,” said Brewer. “The only thing I saw was pure hate.”

 

In those moments, Brewer saw his future disappear.

 

“They say your life flashes before your eyes,” he explained. “That’s exactly what happened. I didn’t think that was real until it happened to me. I saw my entire career, my future family and my retirement, flash before me. I thought I was going to die. It was the worst feeling.”

 

The next thing that happened could only be fate. The gunman raised the pistol, pointed it at Brewer, and pulled the trigger. But this time, the gun didn’t go off. It jammed. He tried once more yelling, “Allahu Akbar,” but again it jammed.

 

At that point, the gunman turned and fled. Brewer’s years of training and time in security forces kicked in. He jumped up to pursue the suspect. He slipped on the floor of the bus on what he later discovered was a pool of blood.

 

Brewer caught up to and cornered the gunman, who now was holding a knife, on the second floor of Terminal 2. At that moment, they made eye contact one final time. The hate he originally saw had now turned to fear.

German police arrived to detain the suspect and allowed Brewer to return to the bus to assess the situation and aid his Airmen. What he found was that Airman 1st Class Zachary Cuddeback and Senior Airman Nicholas Alden had been killed, and that two others were severely wounded.

 

I wouldn’t have lasted very long without treatment

 

Within a few weeks of returning home, Brewer knew something was wrong. The incident had been replaying in his mind on repeat. He cleared his home 15 to 20 times each day, as thoughts crept into his head that someone was hiding and waiting to “finish the job.”

 

After several weeks, sitting alone at his desk, it hit him that he couldn’t go on. The symptoms of his PTSD had begun to take over his life. He needed to talk to someone. Brewer believes that going to mental health helped him stay in the military.

 

“I wouldn’t have lasted very long without treatment,” he said. “Seeking counseling helped my career.”

 

The biggest challenge for Brewer to this day has been survivor’s guilt.

 

“I wake up every day with a roof over my head and a loving family. There were two guys that day that had that but don’t anymore,” said Brewer. “These struggles are an ongoing battle. There have been improvements and I manage it better than I used to. It’s definitely not as severe at least, but I am still healing. And I don’t think I’m ever going to stop healing; I’m going to continue to heal for the rest of my life.”

 

Finding healing by sharing his story

 

One of the first steps in his journey seven years ago was to write down his story, by hand, multiple times. According to Brewer, being able to release his story, to get it off his chest, was incredibly healing. Now, he is sharing his story to audiences across the Air Force as an Ambassador for the Air Force Wounded Warrior (AFW2) Program.

 

He believes that by sharing his story he can use himself as an example to give others, who are suffering from invisible wounds, hope.

 

“People have a negative view about going to mental health. I can tell you I’ve gone to mental health. I’ve returned to full duty. I’m a flight chief who leads 50 Airmen and protects 96,000 personnel,” Brewer said. 

 

Brewer believes his healing was partially on hold until he started connecting with fellow Airmen at AFW2 events.

 

“For the seven years that I didn’t talk about my incident, I thought that I was healed, but it took me joining the ambassador program and sharing my story to realize I wasn’t,” he said. “So, I guess you could say, I put my healing on hold and hit the pause button. And about four months ago, I hit play.”

 

Editor’s Note: Are you or someone you know suffering from an invisible wound? Visit the Invisible Wounds Initiative website or the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program for more information. Ultimately, Airmen taking care of Airmen is what this is all about. Finding strength in yourselves and others, to go the extra distance, seek help, and come back stronger. The Air Force is committed to ensuring you have the resources to do so.

Twitter
RT @DeptofDefense: The fifth @InvictusGamesNL will be held May 9-16, 2020 in The Hague, Netherlands 🇳🇱. More than 500 competitors from 19 n…
Twitter
“It has taken a long time for us as an organization to realize it is our Airmen that make our @usairforce special,”… https://t.co/IeNyu3BneR
Twitter
Our program is striving to create a culture of caring...one that empowers everyone to seek help early and often reg… https://t.co/j37PEOedjx
Twitter
RT @RocktoRecovery: (1/2) #TBT to our music therapy program in 2016 with @AFW2 at the #AndrewsAirForceBase. Thank you for your service to a…
Twitter
Take some time today to focus on your own mental health and remember to #bethere for your #wingmen who may be suffe… https://t.co/XEjGZEdyW7
Twitter
Just last week, the United States Air Force announced which #AFwarriors would represent #TeamUSA in the upcoming… https://t.co/S4lsUgRftg
Twitter
The Duke of Sussex, Prince Harry, and Ed Sheeran teamed up to highlight the importance of #WorldMentalHealthDay2019https://t.co/4BCIYpe3EQ
Twitter
#AFW2_warriorwednesday Tech. Sgt. (ret.) Corey Sites served in the @PANationalGuard In 2017 he developed Stage IV k… https://t.co/MmG4h9fd45
Twitter
Connectedness goes beyond those who wear a uniform. In order to truly #bethere for our warriors, we have to build a… https://t.co/CtZwyNBDkw
Twitter
#ICYMI: Master Sgt. (ret) Adam Boccher, an Air Force Wounded Warrior Program Ambassador spoke with Military Familie… https://t.co/4O2cLGw015
Twitter
#AFW2_warriorwednesday Master Sgt. Kay Lynn Money is a Security Forces Defender with the @USAFReserve. She spent a… https://t.co/bnLpk6K7mH
Twitter
Check out the story from our #AFW2 #EmpowermentinTransition workshop. https://t.co/UbC65YqN4z
Twitter
#AFW2_warriorwednesday Senior Master Sgt. David Snyder joined the #AirForce in 1999. In 2017, he was riding a motor… https://t.co/EUAiiNqK6W
Twitter
Congratulations  @USAFReserve Staff Sgt. Kevin Greene. He competed at @WrightPattAFB yesterday in a 5 and 10K race… https://t.co/tnhil5iary
Twitter
#AFW2_warriorwednesday Tech. Sgt. Daniel Keller is a combat controller with the @123AW_KYANG 123rd Special Tactics… https://t.co/6NzLIYkssG
Twitter
#AFW2_warriorwednesday Chief Master Sgt. Christa Dossett #AirForce in 1995 as an Information Manager. Her 2018 brea… https://t.co/gboB80J4Nq
Twitter
#AFW2_warriorwednesday Retired Tech. Sgt. Nicholas Lang joined the #AirForce in 2002. Leadership recognized him for… https://t.co/gmL7vxsDRE
Twitter
#AFW2_warriorwednesday Retired Tech. Sgt. Jeremiah Jones joined the #AirForce as an airborne cryptologic language a… https://t.co/4Tu8F3uY2h
Twitter
5,188
Follow Us