Overcoming challenges - McChord's Wounded Warriors

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Naomi Shipley
  • 62nd Airlift Wing Public Affairs

“I’m not a deeply religious person, but I believe there is something or someone out there and whatever he or she is doing is guiding me, because it’s going to help me see what I need to.”

These words from Robert Snyder, McChord Field Air Force Recovery Care Coordinator, ring true throughout his life, especially now.

It’s Snyder’s job to help our Wounded Warriors in their recovery process.

According to http://warriorcare.dodlive.mil, the Recovery Care Coordinators work closely with each service member, their families and recovery teams to develop a Comprehensive Recovery Plan.

Snyder, a retired master sergeant, has spent the last three years doing just that and he has assisted more than 140 Airmen throughout Washington and Oregon.

“We take care of folks from beginning to end,” said Snyder. “It’s a whole team effort from initial identification through recovery and rehabilitation to the fitness evaluation, otherwise known as the Medical Evaluation Board and re-integration or separation. I am with them through it all.”

The program, which the Air Force began in 2005, provides services to not only combat Wounded Warriors, but also to any Airman with a severe illness or injury.

“It’s a great program and we try to catch everybody,” he said. “But we have had some Wounded Warriors that refused the help. I don’t hound those people, I just let them know what services are available.”

Snyder said the job is about connecting with people.

“It’s an advantage that I love to talk, because when I talk to Wounded Warriors, regardless of what kind of injury they have, I need to know what’s going on,” said Snyder. “I can’t help them If I don’t’ know what’s wrong.”

The first year on the job he was working with an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Airman who was missing both of his legs and his right arm.

Four months ago Snyder found himself facing the possibility of becoming an amputee himself. Having been a diabetic for many years, he has always been cautioned to care for his feet and so he has. But last year he suffered from a foot infection and had to have two of his toes removed.

Unfortunately, earlier this year he had to be seen again.

“This year my foot swelled double its normal size due to a bone infection,” he said.

The diagnosis was more severe than he originally thought. He was forced to make the decision to have his foot and part of his leg amputated.

Despite the initial shock he was in a hurry to recover and get back to doing what he could to help others.

“It drives me nuts not being able to do anything and I hate that ‘woe is me crap,’” he said. “The doctors were laughing at me in the hospital, because I was on the phone with my warriors after my surgery. I simply said let’s move forward, let’s go. ”

It’s not that he hasn’t struggled, because he has, it’s that he says he doesn’t want to ever hear ‘I can’t.’

He has taken tumbles, quite literally.

Recently, Snyder and his wife were going to a local fair and he fell in the rocky parking lot on his way in.

“I hit a large rock and I flipped over and my wife was really upset by it,” he said. “But I tucked and rolled and laughed at myself for falling.”

A man helped Snyder up off the ground and he was okay.

“There are times where I ask myself ‘really,’ said Snyder. “I keep hoping one day it’ll grow back. A lot of people I work with go through this. Luckily, I have a great support system in my family and at work.”

He said a common misconception about amputees is regarding their abilities.

“A lot of people think I can’t do things because of my leg,” he said. “And you may be thinking, how are they going to be able to do that if they’re in a wheelchair or they’re missing limbs. [However], you will be amazed at what these folks (amputees) can do. Even I used to think the same thing.”

Snyder said at times caregivers are overlooked when it comes to the care of Wounded Warriors, but they are instrumental.

To offer support to the warriors and their caregivers, Joint Base Lewis McChord, Washington, is hosting the Warrior Care event here Aug. 1-4.

It includes adaptive elective sports, an employment fair and seminars for the caregivers including stress management and financial management information.

160 combined Air Force and Army members are expected to participate in the event and that’s not including caregivers.

“There’s a lot of things those caregivers are going through that they didn’t expect to have to deal with,” said Snyder.

And there are an abundance of resources out there for the caregivers that they may not know about.

“Everyone is different and we all handle challenges differently, but if it doesn’t kill you it makes you stronger,” said Snyder.

For more information about Wounded Warrior recovery care contact 982-8580.