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Resilient Airmen rally during Storytellers II
Sheri, wife of U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Donald Gray, 509th Bomb Wing first sergeant, shares her story of resiliency during the Storytellers II event, Sept. 19, 2013, at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. Throughout their marriage, the couple has gone through long periods of separation. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley/Released)
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Resilient Airmen rally during Storytellers II

Posted 9/26/2013   Updated 9/26/2013 Email story   Print story


by Staff Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley
509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

9/26/2013 - WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo.  -- Years of marriage spent apart, abusive relationships, banishment from family - these are the stories of Airmen who stood before their wingmen during the Storytellers II breakfast Sept. 19 at Whiteman Air Force Base.

Storytellers events around the Air Force started after a prompting question from senior leadership: "Every Airman has a story. What's yours?"

Storytellers acts as a platform from which Airmen and dependents who have overcome difficulties in their lives can share their tales of resiliency.

"It takes incredible bravery for them to stand on stage without hesitation and share the hardships they have gone through," said U.S. Air Force Chaplain (Capt.) Kenneth Johnson from the 509th Bomb Wing while addressing the audience. "The stories are meant to inspire you and inspire hope, as well as to encourage you to share the knowledge and advice you learn here with others."

This time around, the event featured the stories of four Airmen and one dependent who all went through challenging times in their lives but came out more resilient when all was said and done.

One of the Storytellers, U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Pamela Field from the 509th Maintenance Group, dealt with a string of abusive relationships before joining the Air Force. After enlisting, though, the trouble did not cease.

"The reason I tell my story is because some people don't know what a healthy relationship looks like," Field said. "They might think they can't do better because they've heard all their lives how horrible they are. They might be trapped physically, emotionally or financially, but still think they can endure everything.

"There is so much more than physical pain that comes with being in an abusive relationship," she added. "It changes who you are. But with the bad things come resiliency and forgiveness. More important than forgiving them is forgiving yourself for things you don't have control over. You have to surround yourself with positive people who make you feel good."

This sentiment was echoed by many of the speakers - in the end, having someone there for them helped them heal. But the victory of getting to that point was often hard-won.

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Maurice Ingram from the 509th BW Equal Opportunity Office shared his story of overcoming depression. In 2004, he became overwhelmed while juggling everything expected of him personally and professionally while simultaneously managing his terminally ill mother's care even though they were geographically separated.

"The situation was tough on everyone, but everyone was looking to me for hope," Ingram said. "I was an NCO, a dad, a minister. I might have looked together on the outside, but I was dead inside. I didn't even realize I was depressed. I made it to work on time and I had money in my bank account, but there were not enough extracurricular activities or work in my ministry to lift me up out of that."

Also present at the event were resources available to help attendees who might also be going through tough times, including a chaplain, a mental health representative and a victim's advocate.

Overall, Storytellers is not just an opportunity for Airmen to share their stories; it provides a unique chance to find strength in shared experiences and community in the Air Force family.

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