A warrior's newfound hope

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

The events that occur in one’s life can form a ripple effect that can lead to fresh opportunities, transformations, and a newfound purpose. It challenges people to create different perspectives on how they ultimately choose to overcome life’s adversities. For many warriors enrolled in the Air Force Wounded Warrior (AFW2) Program, the realities they face every day due to their injury or illness is not easy. The act of being resilient helps warriors conquer the obstacles they encounter and inspires them to keep moving forward.

In 2015, Technical Sgt. Harry McClure was in a life-altering car accident after a driver ran a red light, slamming into his car. McClure sustained two ruptured discs in his neck and a torn shoulder from the impact, leading to a series of surgeries and on-going treatments. The results of the accident also left him with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Although he had deployed three times and survived the chaotic nature of those events, this car accident ultimately changed his life and initiated a new journey.

“It’s crazy how you survive craziness overseas and then you come home and get T-boned,” McClure said. “Anybody can get in an accident, anytime and anywhere. Life will happen when you don’t expect it and the fact that I can see it that way helps me to accept that it’s part of life.”

While waiting in line at the pharmacy for his medication, a medical group commander approached McClure and introduced him to the AFW2 Program. It was his purple tinted glasses (which he wears because of his TBI) that initially caught the commander’s attention and helped him refer into the program. Following McClure’s enrollment, he received the opportunity to attend his first AFW2 CARE Event at Scott Air Force Base in 2019, where he participated in adaptive sports and was awarded and coined for his sportsmanship. He even broke the record for most hugs given in AFW2 CARE Event history, giving close to 300 hugs throughout the week of the event.

“The CARE Event was all about us, not about me. It’s neat what’s given to you and how you can apply that to others,” McClure said. “I would encourage people, who haven’t gone through a CARE Event, to go and experience one so that you have the opportunity to bring light to somebody, and it might just be that you’re bringing light to yourself by serving others. I have always believed that I just haven’t seen it very often, but the CARE Events do that.”

The journey of recovery is not always an easy one, but for McClure, it opened new doors to explore a calling as a Master Resilience Training (MRT) instructor at Maxwell AFB. It was his commander at that time who encouraged him to apply for the position and, after three unsuccessful attempts, McClure was officially hired and ready to move forward in his new role.

“If I could help one person, then everything I’ve gone through had a purpose and it was not for nothing,” McClure said. “If I could help many, great. If I could help one, it is still success and that is all worth every struggle I went through because it gives that one individual hope.”

His role as an MRT at Maxwell AFB allows him the opportunity to teach resiliency to Airmen with his own experiences informing his teaching. With courses being offered in-person and online, Airmen are taught eight vital skill sets needed to become more resilient both individually and collectively. Some topics covered in the resilience training include gratitude, values-based goals, reframe, balanced thinking, and physical resilience. Each skill set helps build optimism and positive emotions, which in turn helps fuel one’s resilience and determination to keep moving forward despite life’s challenges.

“I have been blessed to have the opportunity to teach resiliency training,” McClure said. “As an instructor, I want Airmen to walk away with the skills they are taught and not my story. I want to empower whoever comes my way, and then empower them to empower whoever comes their way.”

McClure aspires to finish what he has started and hopes to retire from the Air Force in the next year and a half. He concludes by saying, “Aim for something bigger than yourself and you’re going to find that your life has accomplished amazing things, and maybe, nothing at what you initially aimed for. I look back at my life and I see so much that I am grateful for that gave me purpose after the fact.”

The AFW2 Program continues to display virtual social events every week hosted by our warriors, caregivers, and staff members. Tune in to the AFW2 Facebook page to witness our events and stay connected with us. To learn more about the AFW2 Program, or to refer an Airman, visit www.woundedwarrior.af.mil for additional information and resources.