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Airmen share stories of overcoming hardships

Storytellers event photo

Staff Sgt. Victoria Rhodes, medical technician, shares her story of surviving severe burns during the annual “Storytellers” event, March 29, 2019, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. The event allowed attendees to hear the stories of four Airmen who have overcome adversity in the military. (U.S. photo/Senior Airman Holly Ardern)

Storytellers event photo

Officer Danny Gordon, civilian police officer, shares his story of almost being killed in the line of duty during the annual “Storytellers” event, March 29, 2019, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. The event allowed attendees to hear the stories of four Airmen who have overcome adversity in the military. (U.S. photo/Senior Airman Holly Ardern)

Storytellers event photo

2nd Lt. Joanna Montanari, Officer Danny Gordon, Staff Sgt. Victoria Rhodes, and Master Sgt. Chito Anicete, “Storytellers” volunteer speakers, pose for a photo following the annual event, March 29, 2019, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. The event allowed attendees to hear the stories of these four Airmen who have overcome adversity in the military. (U.S. photo/Senior Airman Holly Ardern)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- Airmen from across the base gathered at the USO to hear four Airmen share their stories about overcoming hardships and adversity during the Rising 6’s annual Storytellers event.

The audience members listened intently as the speakers shared their stories, and offered hope to those who may be struggling.

Staff Sgt. Victoria Rhodes, medical technician, told her story of surviving severe burns. She described the excruciating pain that she endured on her long road to recovery, emphasizing that the pain was not just physical. She described how overwhelming day-to-day life was, and the serious toll that her injury took on her mental health. Rhodes explained the importance of seeking help, and how that allowed her to persevere one day at a time. “You get up, and you do whatever you can do that day.” Emphasizing the key roles of her wingmen and the 88th Medical Group services, Rhodes was able to share with the group that she is not a victim, but a survivor.

2nd Lt. Joanna Montanari, program manager, shared her story of losing her mother. She described for the audience what was supposed to be an exciting time in her life, awaiting a class date to go to Officer Training School, but took an unexpected turn when her mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Given six to twelve months to live, Montanari’s mother passed away just three weeks later. She explained the overwhelming stress that she endured in dealing with grieving the loss of her parent and immediately going to OTS. Montanari described her experience going to mental health, and how they helped her to cope with the loss. “Just like you would go see a doctor with a broken hand, and they’d give you a treatment plan, I went in and said I was dealing with the loss of my mother and they gave me a grieving treatment plan.”   Montanari encouraged listeners to seek help when they need it, like she did.

Master Sgt. Chito Anicete, unaccompanied housing superintendent, shared with the attendees his personal struggle with mental health in the military. He depicted for the audience one day in particular, that everything that was going on in his personal and work life had become too much to bear. He described the feelings that were running through his head as he sat in a chair in his workplace, thinking about ending his own life. A moment later, a former colleague of Anicete walked by, and noticed that something wasn’t right. After asking him what was wrong, Anicete assured her that he was fine, but she was not taking that for an answer. “She looked at me and said, ‘I’m not leaving you until you’re okay.’” With the encouragement of his colleague, Anicete sought the help of the mental health clinic. Through speaking with the professionals there, and relying on his leadership and wingmen, Anicete was able to find his way back. “I felt like I had a fight, like I had a chance, and I did.” Anicete left the audience with a challenge to always be a wingman to their peers, because you never know what kind of difference it can make.

Officer Danny Gordon, 88th civilian police officer, shared his story of a day where he faced death in the line of duty as a young rookie during a wing level base-wide exercise. He described his morning, which started with replacing one of the security forces augmentees to help with morning traffic. Gordon then had to perform a routine turn-around, after an unauthorized driver had accidentally pulled up to the gate. He instructed the driver to give him his driver’s license and put his car into park. The driver of the vehicle disregarded his instructions, put his car into drive, and dragged Gordon three and a half feet toward oncoming traffic. Sustaining injuries to his right leg and shoulder, Gordon contemplated the use of deadly force. After analyzing the risk, he decided not to for fear that he would injure an innocent person in the vicinity. Due to the fast action of a security forces augmentee putting in a radio call for help, Gordon’s team acted quickly and resolved the situation. Gordon credits the positive outcome to the training that they receive as police officers. He shared his story so that others in the Wright-Patterson community would know what kinds of police officers are looking out for them. “We’re all one team and one family.”

Following the stories, attendees were able to speak with the storytellers and thank them for sharing.

“The biggest message that I think most attendees heard at storytellers was to remember that we are all human and to reach out,” explained Tech. Sgt. Brooke Trevino, Rising 6 president. “We’re a team and we’re here to take care of the mission and take care of each other.”