Care Beyond Duty; A road to recovery

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jessica Do
  • 14th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
U.S. Air Force Technical Sgt. Jessica Derhammer, 14th Force Support Squadron Customer Support section chief, was selected to represent Team Air Force at the 2023 Warrior Games Challenge at Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego, California in June.

“I was picked up to go to tryouts in February and was notified that I was selected to do powerlifting, swimming, field, wheelchair track, and I am an alternate for shooting, rowing and alternative measures basketball,” said Derhammer.

Derhammer has had a long road to recovery after being diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer in January 2021.

“TSgt Derhammer has already been a superstar but since she has attended the wounded warrior events her assertiveness and attention to detail has increased,” said Master Sgt. Jerry Hicks, 14th Military Personnel flight chief.

“I knew she was the "strongest" person in my unit so I wasn't surprised that she would be competing.”
An Air Force Wounded Warrior is any seriously wounded, ill, or injured Airman or Guardian.

“I was enrolled into the Air Force Wounded Warrior program in March of 2021, but due to COVID they were not doing and live care events,” said Derhammer. “Mr. Jim Griggs , the recovery care coordinator (RCC) for the area was checking in on me usually twice a month to make sure I did not need anything. I was going through treatment all of
that year.”

In 2022 Mr. Griggs recommended Derhammer attend her first care event. This would be the first in-person event since COVID.

“I was dealing with a lot of side-effects and trying to work on my recovery,” said Derhammer. “I was not in a good place mentally, physically, or emotionally, so I was not receptive at first.”

Derhammer felt very alone during her recovery and after returning to work in April of 2022. Chemotherapy compromises the immune systems and because of the pandemic, seeing her friends and family were not an option.

“I made excuses as to why I could not attend because mentally I felt like ‘I cannot do anything right now,’’’ said Derhammer.

Briggs called for an update a week later telling Derhammer he thought the event would help her significantly.

Derhammer finally gave in and put in the request to attend the event in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

“By the time I left the event, my whole mindset changed,” said Derhammer. “It changed the way I thought about who I was, what I could do and what I wanted to do.”

Care events have different sections and programs that Wounded Warriors can explore and learn more about, such as: adaptability, resiliency, empowerment, and transitioning. They also have components like ambassadors , caregivers, and adaptive sports.

“I wanted to try adaptive sports first and I fell in love,” said Derhammer. “It was very eye-opening for me and gave me a new invigoration to be able to make it through this last year. They have given me little burst of ‘Oh my gosh I can do this, and I am going to make it.’”

Some Airmen do not know what Wounded Warrior is about and the services they provide to Airmen in need.

“I believe Wounded Warrior is important because the Airmen that compete are America's Heroes,” said Hicks. “Many of them, like TSgt Derhammer, despite their illness perform their jobs to the highest extent and don't miss a beat. It's truly amazing and inspiring.”

Derhammer tries to train every day on her skills to prepare for the upcoming competition. In some cases, warriors will need to be a fill-in for sports they were not listed for due to unforeseen circumstances.

“I am so excited to compete,” said Derhammer. “Last year I got to watch my friends compete and they inspired me. I hope I can inspire and mentor those who watch me this year.”