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AFW2 behind the scenes: Celebrating the Month of the Military Caregiver

  • Published
  • By Tonya McGough
  • Air Force Wounded Warrior Program

In this day, and in this time, and in this moment, I never thought that the fulfillment of life treasures and lessons would be the greatest attributes that I will forever embrace with the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program, or AFW2.

Who is an AFW2 Caregiver?  An AFW2 Caregiver is a person who provides daily support in some fashion to a wounded, ill or injured Airman in an effort to sustain a healthy, resilient, and rewarding life as they navigate the continuum of care (examples; spouse, mother, father, uncle, aunt, friend, or another close contact of the warrior). 

Since 2001, under the wings of the Airman & Family Readiness Center, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to serve and support our Warriors and Military families.  In 2014, the Department of Defense established the Military Caregiver PEER Forum Initiative.  Shortly thereafter I was appointed to stand up the AFW2 Caregiver Support Program (now known as the AFW2 Caregiver and Family Support Program).    

I had no idea how taking care of AFW2 Caregivers--our “Unsung Heroes”--would change my life. Through this journey I have learned that the caregiver is the heart of the wounded warrior and the family; the glue that keeps it all together. 

Caregivers travel endless emotional journeys, with heartbreaking highs and lows; facing many sleepless nights, oftentimes feeling a sense of isolation. 

The heartbreaking truth is no one was taking care of the caregivers. They were experiencing burn-out that often led to divorce and family break-ups, which inevitably led to warrior regression in care.  By failing the caregivers, we were failing our warriors.

The AFW2 Caregiver and Family Support Program is about making sure that our warriors have a strong foundation and that the core of that foundation, the caregiver, has the resiliency tools, networks, and resources to sustain the journey. 

The program emphasizes the importance of the caregiver taking care of themselves in order to be at their best to take care of and support the ones they love.  We offer enrollment-welcome calls, wellness calls, videoconference workshops/social hours, resiliency building, caregiver symposiums (which include resiliency/ life skills, emotional management/humor, marriage enrichment/communication, spiritual self-care, & financial management training), monthly town hall calls, a caregiver closed Facebook group, family support resources, and a caregiver ambassador and mentorship program; to name a few. 

During the Month of the Military Caregiver, we want to honor and recognize caregivers for all that they do and the many sacrifices they make each and every day on behalf of their warriors and families.  More importantly, we want to say thank you and let you know that no matter the journey, the AFW2 Caregiver and Family Support Team is here for you.  You are not alone, and together with your caregiver family, we can make it through. 

The Journey of the warrior is the journey of the caregiver,