Special agents from the 10th Field Investigations Squadron, AirForce4 Office of Special Investigations, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, welcomed one of their own Aug. 28 as she walks 1,000 miles in support of American and British wounded warriors.
Adele Loar, a U.S. Air Force retired master sergeant and OSI special agent and former Security Forces member who was wounded in Iraq, and two American and three to four British service members have been walking since June 2 from west coast to east coast as they raise awareness of wounded veterans’ mental health and other issues. The walkers are supported by two nonprofits: Walk of America and the British organization Walking With The Wounded. The walk finishes Sept. 6 in New York City.
The walkers and support crew members were treated to breakfast at the Hope Hotel as their itinerary moved them that day from Cincinnati to Columbus and on to Pittsburgh.
Lt. Col. Andrea O’Connor, 10th Field Investigations Squadron commander, welcomed everyone in the group and said her organization was particularly enthusiastic about meeting Loar.
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“This is huge for us. We’re a small career field so when you have the opportunity to reach out to a fellow special agent, it’s special,” she said. “They’re automatically family and someone you want to reach out to.”
“Anytime we have a survivor, a wounded warrior we can recognize and say ‘thank you’ to, we’re always appreciative of that opportunity,” said Col. Garry Little, 1st Field Investigations Region commander.
In 2006 Loar suffered the loss of an eye, damage to a shoulder and a traumatic brain injury, and her partner Special Agent Daniel Kuhlmeier and driver U.S. Army Specialist Jesse Davila were killed. She now suffers from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
“It feels great to be back with my own,” she said. “I’ve never met any of them (the special agents) here, but you become embraced like you’re family.”
Walking this summer has been an experience she has welcomed, Loar said.
“Every day is a new experience to enjoy, and the team I’m walking with, as well as the love and support we have received along the way, is amazing,” she said. “As much as I’m walking for Dan and Jesse, it’s also to bring awareness to mental health. I have a moderate brain injury, PTSD with depression, and struggle with suicidal thoughts and having a purpose in life; if it weren’t for nonprofit organizations helping me, I wouldn’t be alive today. That’s the real importance of the walk.”
Loar has a tattooed “bracelet” around her right wrist with dog tags representing Kuhlmeier and Davila and a Purple Heart so she doesn’t forget them and stays motivated, she said.
After chatting with Little, Loar said she was glad to hear about changes the Air Force has made to assist special agents who may be struggling with injuries or issues resulting from being down range.
“It’s great to hear there are changes being made and more help for them,” she commented. She urges veterans who need help to seek it and not suffer in silence.
“There are so many organizations who can help you,” Loar advised. “Use your leadership if you are still in the military; if you’re out, go through the VA. They will be able to direct you to these organizations.”
Walk of America and Walking With The Wounded joining forces to raise awareness of veterans’ issues was a natural move, said Kate Sylvester, WWTW support crew member.
“The U.S. and U.K. have fought alongside one another and should heal together. We’re here to collaborate together to raise funds to support veterans in the best possible way on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean,” she said.
O’Connor thanked the Wright-Patt Chiefs Group and First Sergeants Council, represented by Master Sgt. Justin Campbell and Master Sgt. Thomas Rayniak, for supporting the breakfast.
For more information about Walk of America, go to www.walkofamerica.com.