Wounded Warrior’s personal account helps commanders take care of Airmen

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Jefferson Thompson
  • 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing

The Air Force Wounded Warrior program recently hosted an event for commanders, first sergeants and others who focus on taking care of Airmen, Feb. 8, 2021.

The event is designed around first-hand testimony from a wounded warrior and subsequent question and answer to identify ways that a command can support Airmen who are injured in the line of duty.

This virtual meeting featured the story of active-duty explosive ordnance technician, Staff Sgt. Guadalupe Corona, who goes by Wally. He walked the audience through much of his career explaining both the highs and the lows, ultimately explaining how he recovered from injury, both physical and mental, and was able to return to active service.

“Staff Sgt. Corona’s story provided our leadership team direct insight into the challenges our Airmen experience on the field of battle and later at home,” said Col. Matthew Crowell, the vice-commander for the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, who hosted the event in the deployed location. “His insights highlighted the continued need for our resiliency-focused efforts, specifically on the mental health front. His example demonstrates the importance of our enduring prioritization of our Airmen, ensuring we value them as the most important asset and provide the education so they know when and how to ask for help.”

A group of EOD Airmen currently assigned to the 332nd AEW also attended the briefing, one of whom has served with Corona in the past.

Master Sgt. Mathew Kimberling, the lead EOD technician at the 332nd, sat in the audience listening to a brother-in-arms, and later reflected on the importance of Corona’s story saying, “I thought it was important, not everyone will experience these things,” he said, speaking of the battle field, “but for those that do, it’s more a matter of ‘when’ than ‘if’ they will be affected by some of it, and that’s important for my guys to hear.”

He went on to add that although the tempo of operations has slowed since the intense operations in Iraq where EOD crisscrossed the country disarming IEDs, he hopes that younger Airmen in their ranks can absorb the hard-won wisdom and face inevitable hurdles more gracefully.

Kimberling said his own career began with tremendous intensity at the fledgling grade of airman first class, but it was a full decade later that he felt the compounding experiences of battle, of losing close friends and surviving close calls and turned to health care professionals for perspective.

“There is a compounding effect these things have and it’s going to affect everybody at some point,” and although he and his fellow Airmen are at times reticent to talk about it, events like this give them the information they need to find a listening ear when the situation demands it.

Kimberling says he hopes that these lessons are not lost on a new generation of Airmen who are just stepping onto their path, a path made clearer by the experiences of people like Staff Sgt. Guadalupe “Wally” Corona.