Face of Defense: Airman Shows Strength for Recovery
By Air Force Staff Sgt. Daniel Bowles
Special to American Forces Press Service
CHARLESTON AIR FORCE BASE, S.C., Aug. 28, 2009 An explosive ordnance disposal technician with the 437th Civil Engineer Squadron here mustered the strength to brace himself and stand for the first time in three weeks Aug. 21 after an explosion turned his deployment upside down.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz speaks with Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael Williams after an aeromedical evacuation mission on the flightline at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Aug. 7, 2009. Williams was injured in Afghanistan and is receiving treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Renae L. Kleckner
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"I just want to take each day slowly but surely. In the next week or two, I heard, I could be on crutches," Air Force Tech. Sgt. Michael Williams said. "The doctors are saying I'm doing really well."
The explosion occurred when Williams came face to face with an antipersonnel landmine while deployed to Afghanistan.
Williams was critically injured. He received initial care at a medical facility in Afghanistan, and the following day, he was flown to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany.
Less than a week after the explosion, a long voyage over Europe and the Atlantic Ocean began toward his final destination at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.
When Williams landed on his home soil Aug. 7, a warm welcome was waiting for him from Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton A. Schwartz and Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James A. Roy. The two joined him on the flightline aboard his plane, Williams said, honoring the wounded warrior with a noteworthy homecoming.
"I didn't ask to meet them or anything -- they were already there when I got there,” he said. “They were real nice. They asked how I was doing and everything, and made sure I was doing well.”
Shortly after, he was transported to Walter Reed, where he spent the next few weeks undergoing care in the surgery ward, still unable to walk or stand on his own. The first stages of rehabilitation are under way, but Williams said the process easily can last up to a year.
In addition to support from medical staff, his family has been ever present, steadfast and supportive since the day he arrived at Walter Reed, he said, and the help hasn't stopped there.
Williams' Air Force family also has stepped in to help.
The Air Force Wounded Warrior program kicked into gear immediately to support Williams after he was injured, and careful watch has been placed on his progress every step of the way, an Air Force Wounded Warrior consultant at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, said.
The Wounded Warrior program operates in support of an Office of the Secretary of Defense initiative to ensure all wounded warriors receive comprehensive information and guidance on benefits and entitlements. The program begins at the point of injury and continues for life.
Because Williams is recovering at a facility that falls outside of his home unit's chain of command, he has been assigned a family liaison officer. The officer serves as a wounded warrior's primary point of contact for information, assistance and communication with various agencies serving the member.
Fortunately for Williams, his family liaison officer is not only a fellow explosive ordnance disposal airman, but also a longtime friend stationed near Walter Reed.
Another acquaintance, Air Force Tech. Sgt. Raymond Pomeroy, the EOD flight chief for the 437th Civil Engineer Squadron here, made a special trip to see Williams.
Pomeroy said a great deal of work and preparation has taken place here to set the stage for Williams to return and receive his medical care from a local hospital closer to home.
"We're ready to get him back home where he belongs," he said.
Williams said he’d like to return home to celebrate Thanksgiving and also plans to take a vacation in December. Until then, he said, he is receiving first-class care from a well-rounded team of health care providers at Walter Reed.
"Any time I need something, there's usually more than one person willing to help me with whatever it is I need or any problems, or anything," Williams said. "And if it's not something they can do specifically right then, they're always willing to get someone else who can do it."
Williams said he is grateful for his recovery so far and wants to continue to take things slow.
"You have to have a good attitude. Things could always be worse," he said. "I'm happy with the way things turned out. I can still see my son and everything else."
(Air Force Staff Sgt. Daniel Bowles serves in the 437th Airlift Wing public affairs office.)