OFFUT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. — Wounded Air Force members have gathered at the Offutt Air Force base near Omaha for a special camp aimed at recovery.
The Wounded Warrior CARE four-day event is being held this week, and about 120 current and former Air Force members from across the country are taking part. The event features rehabilitative sports like wheelchair basketball, archery and swimming.
Wounded Warrior Care Foundation official Marsha Gonzales told KETV-TV that the event will provide veterans with a support system to help them try to learn new skills and relearn forgotten skills. The foundation is federally funded, and the event is part of the Air Force’s strategy to show members that they’re not alone in their struggles with physical and mental health issues.
“We all relate to each other, but we’re all different,” Staff Sgt. Melinda Smith, who has multiple sclerosis, told the Omaha World-Herald. “I enjoy the camaraderie. It’s the people, my wounded warrior family.”
Retired Air Force Master Sgt. Lisa Nickisch Hodgden has attended five CARE events and is training this week to become an ambassador for the program. Hodgden was on patrol in Iraq 11 years ago when a roadside bomb exploded under her vehicle. She suffered severe headaches, lost her sense of taste and could barely stand afterward. Hodgdens’ two closest friends died in a convoy attack forty days later. She escorted their bodies home before returning to duty in Iraq for six more months.
“I knew something was very wrong, but I was not going to say anything. PTSD and (traumatic brain injury) were not in the vocabulary at that time,” Hodgden said. “I spent 10 years embittered and alone. I finally spoke up.”
A physical exam two years ago showed Hodgden had broken bones in her back and feet from the roadside bomb.
The event will offer education to members and their caregivers about resources.
Closing ceremonies for the event will be held Thursday evening after a full day of competitive play.