Military News

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Perfectly wounded

by Staff Sgt. Rachelle Blake
55th Wing Public Affairs

11/3/2015 - OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb.  -- The Offutt Diversity Team hosted a National Disability Employment Awareness Month Lunch and Learn Oct. 28 at the Patriot Club with several guest speakers including two wounded warriors.

The first of the four guest speakers was John Weinberg, a wounded warrior, who was medically retired in 2008 after serving 12 years in the Army infantry. Before his unit deployed to Afghanistan, he was severely injured during a field exercise, leaving him a quadriplegic.

"We were out doing a live-fire exercise and the last thing I remember was talking on the radio to the platoon leader and telling him we saw the objective and we were going to start the assault," said Weinburg. "The driver must have thought I was talking to him and starting making the turn and clipped a tree, causing the tree to fall on top of the vehicle."

He spent more than six months in the hospital and had metal plates placed in his neck and eight screws into his vertebrae. Weinburg went on to talk about the challenges of being wheelchair-bound.

"When I first got out of the hospital, my kids were 5, 3 and 2. They had no idea what I was going through," he said. "They would come to me and ask, 'Dad, can you open my juice box? Dad, can you button my shirt? Dad, can you tie my shoes?' It made me feel like a bad dad."

Weinburg continued to struggle and in 2010 attempted suicide.

"Thank God I failed," he said. "Pride. That was my problem."

Weinburg finally got the help he needed.

"They sent me to a lock-down PTSD program," he said. "It helped me out drastically. Now I just live day-to-day and don't let anything stop me. My mom always said, 'God doesn't give you anything you can't handle.'"

He said the most important thing he learned was suicide was a permanent fix to a temporary problem.

Weinberg still has days he feels sorry for himself, but he reminds himself that there are always other who have it worse. In the deployment following his injury, his unit lost nine soldiers who were also his close friends.

"One of them just had a brand new baby, she wasn't even 3 or 4 months old. His daughter will never have the opportunity to grow up with him," said Weinberg. "In the infantry we had a saying, 'take a knee, face out, drink water and get back up and keep going.'"

Following his speech Todd Dawson, 55th Medical Support Squadron recovery care coordinator, spoke about the services he offers members transitioning out of the military.

"I want to take care of all non-medical needs," said Dawson. "We want to make sure as members are transitioning out of the military, they are getting out on solid ground. We want to talk about things such as jobs, education, goals and finances. We want to start looking at these things way early on."

Next, the audience heard from John Galbarith, 55th Force Support Squadron Airman and Family Readiness community readiness technician, who also does work with wounded warriors.

He spoke of an Army sergeant he had worked with in the past who lost everything, because he wasn't willing to reach out and get help with his PTSD.

"At the end of the day he did what his country asked him to do and sacrificed a part of himself in doing it," said Galbarith. "Most wounded warriors are no different. They didn't find their disabilities, their disabilities found them. These airmen, soldiers, sailors and Marines have to rediscover who they are and where they fit in."

Finally, Staff Sgt. Troy Green, 139th Security Forces Squadron, Missouri Air National Guard, and Purple Heart recipient, spoke on his struggles with PTSD. After serving several years in the Air Force, he made the decision to join the Army and found himself at a forward operating base in Afghanistan.

It wasn't long before the base came under attack. During the initial explosion, Green suffered a concussion, traumatic brain injury and shattered two discs, but still continued to fight and assist the wounded until the forward operating base was secured.

"I checked a lot off of my combat bucket list that day," Green said. "I got to see a helicopter fly over and launch a bunch of rockets. I got to see a sniper in action. I got to see a guy self-detonate. It was a weird bucket list. But all that happened in about a span of an hour."

After his unit returned home, they were given five days of leave and then were expected to return to work. There wasn't much in the way of helping them deal with their new issues.

Luckily, Green said he had his wife. He said she was his biggest savior.

But, Green recognizes that not everyone has someone and has become an activist for veteran's needs.

He just finished a 203-mile rucksack march across the state of Missouri and raised more than $7,000 for a veteran's home. He and his wife are also starting a non-profit organization called "Perfectly Wounded" with all proceeds going to support wounded warriors.

Since his deployment, Green switched back to the Air Force and is due to deploy again shortly.

"I am glad to know if something were to happen to one of my [troops], I know where to go know," said Green. "That was one of the problems we had, we didn't know where to go or what to do."

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