“I did not apperceive I got shot,” said the sergeant. “I anticipation a blaze hit my legs.”

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He was on his additional deployment in Afghanistan in July 2011 confined on a action chase and accomplishment team. His mission was to balance blood-soaked account members.

“Going out and accepting attempt at” was routine, he said, as his assemblage averaged eight missions a day.

On the day a ammo tore through his legs central an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter, U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. August O’Niell, 414th Action Training Squadron Detachment 1 flight arch in allegation of arena operations at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, said his apple changed.

“I leaned over and the affliction hit me,” he said. “I affective my tourniquet and our action accomplishment administrator put tourniquets on both of my legs.”

O’Niell, now an Air Force Blood-soaked Warrior ambassador, was confined as the advance medic for that mission, analogous affliction for U.S. Marines. He is one of four AFW2 ambassadors who aggregate their adventures during several presentations at Patrick Space Force Base and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida, July 28-30.

“The alarm over the radio was ‘Troops in contact, one Marine hit in the chest, alarmingly injured,’” O’Niell said. “Halfway out we heard about a additional patient. About two account out, we abstruse of a third.”

Shortly thereafter, baby accoutrements blaze hit the Pave Hawk and one annular ricocheted off the aircraft and went through both of O’Niell’s legs, altering his activity forever. The mission was aborted and O’Niell was transported to Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, area doctors managed to deliver his larboard and appropriate limbs.

O’Niell was again abandoned to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany and afterwards begin himself ability affliction at San Antonio Advancing Medical Center in Texas, area he hoped doctors could acknowledgment his larboard leg to abounding capability.

“In San Antonio, my activity became a alternation of surgeries and analysis every day for about three and a bisected years,” O’Niell said. “I was in affliction consistently and went from a wheelchair, to crutches, to a pikestaff and aback to crutches.”

The ammo burst the lower bisected of O’Niell’s larboard femur and all of his ligaments and tendons had to be replaced which appropriate assorted operations.

There was aloof so abundant damage, he said.

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Twenty surgeries later, O’Niell was told consecutive operations would alone accredit his larboard knee to angle 15 degrees due to the bulk of blister tissue that had congenital up inside. He fabricated the difficult accommodation to accept his larboard leg amputated aloft the knee. He credits the AFW2 affairs with allowance him recover.

“The Air Force Blood-soaked Warrior affairs provided the abutment I needed,” he said. “They were additionally a big advice as I went through the medical appraisal lath process.”

A medical appraisal lath is a action advised to actuate whether a account member’s abiding medical action enables him or her to abide to accommodated medical assimilation standards, in accordance with advancing account regulations. In some cases, it could advance to break from advancing account or medical retirement.

Established in 2005, the AFW2 affairs provides affliction and abetment for wounded, ill or afflicted Airmen and Guardians from the time of their injuries until they alteration aback to advancing assignment or noncombatant life.

The affairs consists of case administration and abutment services.

“We assignment duke in duke with medical and authoritative professionals to ensure our blood-soaked warriors accept all they need,” said Melissa Wiest, AFW2 affairs beat and agent coordinator. “Our aggregation has 42 accretion affliction coordinators beyond the Air Force to advice administer cases and we currently accept about 3,500 alive cases appropriate now.”

Support casework could be acceptable warriors with banking programs, allowance them through the MEB action or ensuring they accept admission to the allowances they authorize for, she added.

O’Niell capital to abide confined as a pararescueman and said the AFW2 affairs affiliated him with the assets he bare so he could accomplish a able case to the medical board.

“My aboriginal MEB came aback and I was abreast they were activity to assuredly retire me and I said, ‘No,’ and requested a academic board,” O’Niell said. “I went and did the Bataan Memorial Death March, filmed myself assuming braiding climbs, bank jumps, accommodating carries and drags; annihilation I anticipation that they could say, ‘You can’t do this movement, you can’t be a (pararescueman) anymore.’ I can and actuality it is on video.”

O’Niell performed all those concrete feats on the prosthetic leg he has acclimated aback November 2014.

A anniversary afterwards his academic MEB, O’Niell became the aboriginal Air Force pararescueman to be absolutely alternate to active-duty account afterwards limitations.

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He encouraged Airmen and Guardians to allotment AFW2 affairs casework with others.

“I am accomplishing the job I appetite to do and that would not accept been accessible if I did not accept bodies acknowledging me like AFW2,” he said. “Take what you apprentice today aback to your units. You’re alone as acceptable as your weakest member, and if you are absolution addition in your assemblage abstract themselves, and you’re not authoritative abiding they accept the assets they need, you are accomplishing an abuse to that Airman and your mission. Talk to them. Acquaint them about the AFW2 program.”

More than 12,000 Airmen and nine Guardians accept enrolled in the AFW2 affairs with 85% of them adversity from airy wounds such as post-traumatic accent ataxia or activity advancing altitude like cancer.

Maj. Marie Perkins, 633rd Medical Abutment Squadron arch advice administrator and advice systems flight administrator at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, was diagnosed with date 2 breast blight in October 2018.

“I apparent a agglomeration on my larboard breast that acquainted like a No. 2 eraser,” she said. “I went to my doctor and went through a mammogram, an ultrasound and I chose to do a biopsy. A anniversary later, the after-effects came back. I had date 2A breast blight and it was aggressive.”

At the time of her diagnosis, Perkins was 32, the mother of an 18-month old babe and was attractive advanced to commutual a medical acquaintance program.

“My apple came to a complete stop,” she said. “I didn’t apperceive what was activity to appear to me and my career. I adulation actuality in the Air Force and I adulation confined my country.”

Over the abutting 14 months, Perkins completed eight circuit of intravenous chemotherapy, underwent four surgeries and several months of radiation therapy. Shortly after, acquisitive she could acknowledgment to duty, she abstruse annihilative beef were still present in her anatomy and she would accept to complete six added months of chemotherapy.

“I capital to get aback to assignment and do what I love,” she said. “But I was at my everyman point, alike admitting I acquainted like I could achieve my health, I had been out of assignment for 14 months, and I acquainted like I was watching my career abort away.”

She contacted her administrator and abreast him she would do annihilation accessible to accord to the mission.

“I told him I would assignment bisected days, assignment from home, do whatever it took,” Perkins said.

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Her administrator responded with article Perkins was not assured over cafeteria at Panera Bread.

“‘There was a colonel who was out of assignment for two years due to a blight battle,’” her administrator said. “‘Your career will not stop. Blight will not ascertain you. You will appear aback and ability the heights you appetite to. We are actuality to abutment you 100%. Your job is to go through this analysis and get better.’”

Those words had a cogent appulse on Perkins.

“I about bankrupt bottomward in tears because that meant so abundant to me,” she said. “For my administrator to acquaint me that I would be OK and to apperceive my administration aggregation accurate me was relieving. I knew I could focus on my bloom and my career was activity to be fine”

Perkins alternate to abounding active-duty account in June 2020, blight chargeless and she credits the AFW2 affairs with allowance her forth the way.

“They gave me all the accoutrement and advice I bare to administer the MEB action and accumulate my administration abreast so I could get aback to accomplishing what I love,” she said. “The program’s caregiver abutment coordinator additionally visited my home on three occasions to ensure my bedmate and I had all we needed.”

The AFW2 affairs is the alone one in the Department of Defense that offers abutment casework to caregivers of blood-soaked account members.

“We are blood-soaked warrior advocates,” Wiest said. “Caregivers could be a mom, dad, spouse, sister or brother, anyone who is allowance a blood-soaked warrior in their recovery. It is important they get the accoutrement and assets they need.”

Those assets accommodate acceptable families with adaptive housing, music therapy, yoga and alike capital oils, Wiest said.

“Helping our blood-soaked warriors and their families is the best job in the world,” she added.

For added advice about the AFW2 program, appointment their website at https://www.woundedwarrior.af.mil.

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