Navy Commemorates Wounded Warrior Month
Vice Admiral Dixon Smith led the recognition ceremony for U.S. Warrior Care Month in Washington this week which saw Chief Logistics Specialist Averill Malone reveal the torment experienced by those suffering post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Malone, the keynote speaker for the event, suffers from PTSD after deployment in Iraq in 2007 and 2008. He has been in the navy for more than 20 years, and following his deployments struggled with his symptoms alone because he did not know where else to turn. After a violent family event he decided to get treatment from the Wounded Warrior-Safe Harbor program.
"I was having nightmares and was afraid of loud noises and I kept asking for help," said Malone. "They said I could have PTSD but back then I didn't know what PTSD was."
Malone brought his daughter with him to the ceremony and said he owed his success in the struggle with PTSD to her and his wife.
"They played referee between me and the world," said Malone. "They made sure I didn't watch certain movies and kept people who came to the house from slamming doors and things like that. It's because of her and my wife that I'm still here."
Malone's comments about his family and their support helping him through his darkest times roused applause from the more than 75 attendees.
In 2013 Malone checked himself into Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, and joined the Wounded Warrior adaptive sports program, which offered a variety of activities. Shortly after, he fell in love with archery and painting.
"I was looking at the other guys and saying that I couldn't compete with them," said Malone. "I told a friend of mine that I didn't think I could do it, and he said, 'it's not about winning, it's about recovery,' and that became my mantra."
Malone competed in the 2014 Warrior Games at Colorado Springs, Colorado, and won a bronze medal in archery, which was neatly displayed on an easel with his art work during his presentation.
Captain Brent Breining, Navy Installations Command's Navy Wounded Warrior-Safe Harbor program director, spoke about the importance of the program. "This year's theme 'a show of strength' recognizes the fortitude and resiliency wounded warriors exhibit on their journey towards recovery," said Breining. "It is our hope that this event will instill a greater appreciation for the lifetime of support that Wounded Warrior-Safe Harbor provides."
During the event, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Office of Warrior Care Policy, James Rodriguez expressed his gratitude for those who support the program, the benefits the program provides, and how anyone can be affected regardless of age or length of service.
"This program is not just for the young or inexperienced," Rodriguez shared. "I want to highlight Chief Malone, one of the navy's senior leaders, who has actually stood up and said ‘I need help. I need assistance’," said Rodriguez. "We have the programs to help him, and that's what's important."
Wounded Warrior month serves as an opportunity to recognize wounded warriors in all services, as well as those who care for them, for their service, sacrifices and achievements.
In 2008, then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates designated November as Warrior Care Month in order to inform members of the military and their families and communities about the programs and initiatives currently being provided through the Warrior Care system and the forthcoming improvements.
Throughout November in Washington, D.C., and throughout the Department of Defense, The Office of Warrior Care and all services' wounded warrior regiments will highlight a variety of wounded warrior programs and activities, including stories of recovery and personal triumphs. Warrior Care Month is not only about what is being done for the nation's wounded, ill and injured service members, but also about what they do for their country, how they continually give back to our communities, their families, and the nation that they have sacrificed so much to protect.
More information is available about Warrior Care Month here.