Health & Safety

August 10, 2012

Help arrives in my darkest hour

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Commentary by Master Sgt. Kevin Wallace
100th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs

Service members retrive cargo dropped from a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III from Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., near Forward Operating Base Todd, Badghis Province, Afghanistan, Jan. 6, 2011. U.S. Soldiers from Fort Carson, Colo., Italian soldiers from the Alpini Regiment in Udine, and other various U.S. and Italian Marines, Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen all benefit from the airdrops. The FOB and more than a dozen nearby combat outposts rely on U.S. and Italian Air Force airdrops for all their supplies. This photo was originally released Jan. 8, 2011.

ROYAL AIR FORCE MILDENHALL, England (AFNS) — I want the nightmares to stop!

That’s one thing I told Dr. Jeffery Peterson, a 48th Medical Operations Squadron clinical psychologist, when I went to see him last year.

I admit the visit wasn’t voluntary.

Just before leaving Afghanistan in May 2011, I had to accomplish an online post-deployment health assessment and was flagged by many of my responses. I had to see Peterson my third day home. I felt our encounter was routine, but optimistically routine.

While downrange I was involved in several close-range firefights, as well as living in constant threat of the near-daily attacks we repelled.

I was notified that I had to do yet another PDHA last August. What followed absolutely blew my mind!

After submitting the PDHA, I stopped by a coworker’s office to talk briefly and returned to a ringing phone. A member of the 48th Medical Group staff was calling me merely 21 minutes after pressing the final mouse click and submitting the PDHA. I was amazed at how fast they reached out to me.

I was flagged again and scheduled to see Peterson that same afternoon. I honestly dreaded having to go ‘talk about my problems,’ again but was truly impressed at how the medical system was working like a well-oiled machine. The 48th MDG staff monitored my progress as if I were their only patient.

Once more, Peterson was very positive and he seemed exceedingly concerned about complications in my Purple Heart medal approval. Since then, he saw my Purple Heart come to fruition and has been in routine contact with me. I also received comprehensive treatment from another 48th MDG psychiatrist and Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.

Despite my care moving from the family practice clinic to the mental health clinic, Peterson has kept in repeated contact with me. It’s more than obvious, he cares.

Top-care isn’t limited to Peterson either.

Dr. Paul West, my psychiatrist, goes well above and beyond, whenever I need a listening ear or professional advice.

Furthermore, the Air Force assigned me to Tom Sansone, a Wounded Warrior counselor at the Air Force Personnel Center.

Sansone has been involved in all aspects of medical care, and has called me at home and at work dozens of times. He’s an amazing counselor.

The truth is I never wanted to see Peterson, West, Sansone or the other medical staff. I didn’t volunteer, the Air Force redeployment system forced these people into my life, but I’m sure glad it did.

Luckily many Airmen won’t see lives taken first hand, much less take human lives or lose close friends to the enemy. Yet, others will. For those people, there’s help.

For service members thrown right into the mix of the darkest aspects of war and inhumanity, I hope you fight well and stand your ground, my brothers. I hope you keep our enemies at bay and keep the fight on foreign soil. Rest assured, as I now know, there are people here at home who care.

For me that was my wife, the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program and the 48th MDG.

Through my rants and despair, my anger and sadness, my wife has always been there. Still, there are some things I could never talk to her about; who’d want to put the worst on the ones they love?

In those times and for those subjects, I have professionals at nearby RAF Lakenheath. I’d be lying to say I always had complete confidence in our medical system — I used to have my doubts. But no longer; now I have full faith that the system works and the professionals care.

I’ll permanently change station to a stateside base next month, and the professionals who cared for me at RAF Lakenheath will become people of my past. I admit that fact is troubling. Yet, I’ve seen first-hand success of the Air Force medical system and the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program. I’ll be in good hands wherever I PCS to — I’m a believer!




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