Remaining virtually connected through stories of resilience

  • Published
  • By Bianca Soto
  • Air Force Wounded Warrior Program

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas -- Physical distancing has evolved into a new normal way of life that has left many individuals feeling isolated and uncertain on what the future holds. With strict measures in place throughout the nation, the Air Force Wounded Warrior (AFW2) Program Outreach team has worked to maintain a social connection with Air Force unit personnel in a more virtual way.

The Outreach team is continuing their mission in spreading awareness of the AFW2 Program and ensuring Ambassadors have a platform to share their testimonies of resilience and help-seeking behaviors. During this unprecedented time, the Outreach team has heightened their efforts in providing Airmen and Air Force leaders the opportunities to host virtual briefings to learn about the resources that are available for Airmen in need and become connected with AFW2 Ambassadors.  

“With stay home orders in place and social distancing in practice, we have found a way to connect our Ambassador speakers to audience members on a virtual platform,” said Melissa Wiest, AFW2 Outreach program manager. “This is a great way to not only tell their story of what happened to them, but they also provide their perspectives on stress and seclusion, emphasize how they were able to overcome their struggles, speak on what methods worked for them and how they epitomized a resilient warrior.”

The virtual speaking opportunities have allowed AFW2 Ambassadors to reclaim their sense of purpose and persevere in their journey of recovery. With 160 Ambassadors currently trained, each individual resonates a message that captures the true spirit of grit, strength and resilience.

“Being a suicide attempt survivor, this is a topic that hits extremely close to the heart for me,” said Staff Sgt. Wally Corona, 775th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal technician. “If my story can help at least one person find courage to get help, then I feel obligated to tell it.”

AFW2 Ambassadors have also had the opportunity to reach thousands of Airmen across the Air Force through the use of virtual platforms. Since launching virtual briefings a few months ago, Ambassadors have reached over 40,000 Airmen worldwide! 

“My virtual testimony has currently been seen close to eight thousand times. I've had friends reach out from two other continents telling me that they saw it and that it is circulating in their areas,” Wally said. “This gives AFW2 the opportunity to reach vast amounts of people while giving them the option to watch it in the comfort of their own homes.”

The virtual briefings have revolutionized the ability for Airmen and Air Force leaders to easily connect with stories of resiliency and become readily informed on recovery resources that are available for Airmen. It has provided perspective and understanding that no one is ever alone when dealing with hardships – that asking for help is just as okay as providing it to others.

“My biggest takeaway after listening to Wally’s story is that everyone needs help. No matter how tough you think you are, or what you’ve been through; having a support structure and people to lean on can always help,” said Staff Sgt. Brian Gohlke, 775th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal technician. “By listening to the virtual testimonies, leaders will understand that some stuff happens in the Air Force and it could help prepare them by asking themselves what they would have done in the troop’s leadership position.”

The ambassador briefings can be delivered through any virtual platform, including Facebook Live, Zoom or Microsoft Teams and are offered to wing, group and squadron levels across the entire Air Force. To schedule a virtual briefing, email, and get connected with a story of resiliency today!

Be sure to visit the AFW2 Facebook page and tune in to the virtual social events hosted by staff and warriors. To learn more about the AFW2 Program, or to refer an Airman, visit for additional information and resources.