Even the brave need saving

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Tiffany M. Deuel
  • 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

"Thank you for your service to our country."

"You are so brave."

"You are my hero."

Men and women in the service often hear things like this from their friends, families, children and even random strangers on the street. Many admire service members for being brave and courageous individuals.

They are often seen as people that have no fear and no problems facing dangerous situations. However, the reality is every Airman, Soldier, Sailor and Marine is a person, and people get scared.

So who helps the brave when they're troubled? Who helps our wounded warriors when they can no longer cope with everyday life after witnessing nightmarish events downrange? Sharon O'Garro, 48th Medical Group nurse case manager, the only case manager for the US military in the U.K., came up with an answer in mid-June 2011, just three months after becoming a case manager with the 48th MDG.

"A lot of wounded warriors were coming to me with similar issues," said O'Garro. "As wounded warriors, they are entitled to certain benefits and many didn't even know they had them." Many felt alone and had work and relationship issues pertaining to their combat related medical and mental health conditions, so I decided it would be a good idea to get all the psycho-social issues important to the wounded warriors and provide educational information and tools specific to the wounded warriors needs; to get their questions answered in one place, in one program, as a compliment to the care they were already receiving."

After four months of planning, coordinating and gaining support from mental providers, social workers, chaplains, psychiatrists, psychologists, marriage counselors and other medical personnel, O'Garro's 'New Horizons' Wounded Warrior support group program came to fruition.

Before it was created, wounded warriors were sent to Landsthul Army Medical Center for treatment, but this was not ideal for every patient because it was in Germany, far from their homes in England.

"(The Landsthul Army Medical Center) program could only handle a few people at a time and kept them away from their job, making them feel guilty," said O'Garro. "(New Horizons) allows the service member to stay in the local area so they are still able to do their job, which creates command support as they get the help they need."

To recognize the success of O'Garro's program, Maj. Judith Baillie, 48th Medical Group healthcare integrator and director of medical management, submitted O'Garro for the Case In Point Platinum Awards. O'Garro won.

"She is the hardest worker I have," said Baillie. "Her caseload is up to 95 patients while the national standard is 32. This is the first program of this sort in the Air Force that I know of."

In addition to creating this new program, O'Garro sought to help solve another issue she has noticed among wounded warriors.

"Wounded warriors that did not receive purple hearts or were not acknowledged were more likely to commit suicide and have a lower life expectancy. It's very important for them to feel appreciated and get that recognition or acknowledgment," said O'Garro. "So I thought we need a coin, a physical reminder to show that they are appreciated, to give to them when they complete the program."

While the idea was great, O'Garro discovered that the U.S. Air Force did not have a coin for wounded warriors. In an effort to change this, O'Garro, Baillie (who came up with the idea of having a competition) and others are working to gather design ideas from Airmen and their military dependents around the U.K. to help design not only a coin for their program, but a new coin for the entire Air Force.

If you would like to submit a coin design or are interested in learning more about 'New Horizons' contact O'Garro at DSN: 226-8175 or sharon.ogarro@lakenheath.af.mil