by Airman 1st Class Taylor Slater
86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Healing. Community. Future.
These are three things that Air Force Wounded Warrior Program gave John Berry, U.S. Air Force Senior Airman and Wounded Warrior ambassador.
“I can see different things out of myself that I wasn’t able to before,” Berry said. “So it just makes every day brighter.”
Berry fell 15 feet, hands-first, during work in July 2017. He suffered from two broken wrists as well as severe brain injuries. Berry, along with over 8,000 other warriors, are part of the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program, a program designed to help Airmen recover from combat, mental illness and other injuries. He has been a part of the program for two years now.
Berry participated with about 40 other warriors in the 2019 United States Air Forces in Europe Warrior Care Event from July 18-26, an event hosted by Ramstein Air Base.
The Warrior Care Event is the first time AFW2 has been brought overseas. Berry, who had never been overseas, was excited when he heard the news.
“It was an opportunity I didn’t want to miss,” he said.
His wife, Christian Berry, agrees.
“I felt blessed because I feel like we always talk about this,” she said. “A lot of people don’t know what this program is and to be able to take it out of the country and to communicate not just with words, but to see it. It is an incredible experience not only for us to absorb, but for others to be a part of.”
The event was also the first time families were invited to the program.
“For the first time ever, children and families are being integrated into the care event and are given the opportunity to train and compete alongside their loved one,” said Marsha Gonzales, Warrior Care Division deputy. “The 2019 USAFE Warrior Care Event will be used as a model for future events and highlight the importance of building a resilient family.”
Berry was very happy that his family came along on their trip overseas.
“It means everything to me,” he said. “They were my stronghold and my rock.”
The event featured a variety of sports such as track, swimming, powerlifting, shooting, archery, wheelchair basketball and rugby. It also featured other mental wellness activities such as workshops, making music, and a tour of Kaiserslautern. Berry said his favorite sport at the event was wheelchair rugby, for the contact and comradery.
Christian Berry agrees.
“Rugby is so intense, but it’s done in a way that’s not negative or oppressive,” Berry said. “It’s hard to grasp that middle line sometimes, but it’s amazing and so much fun.”
AFW2 not only cares for people who are suffering from physical or combat-related injuries, it also cares for invisible wounds as well.
“I didn’t feel like I was deserving to begin with because my injury wasn’t combat-related, I haven’t been deployed and I haven’t been in the military very long” Berry said. “So for them to take me in the way they did and they just embraced us and made us part of the family. Like anybody else.”
Berry said that it’s important to reach out if anyone feels like they are in need of this program.
“The more you hide the injury, the more it hurts,” Berry said. “This program is here for you.”
For more information on how to refer an Airman for the program visit the AFW2 website at https://www.woundedwarrior.af.mil/.