HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. --
Hurlburt Field, FLA. – "I just remember being driven to the hospital and then losing consciousness again,” said Tech. Sgt. Patrick Eldridge, 1st Special Operations Contracting Squadron contracting officer.
During Eldridge’s assignment in Saudi Arabia, he sustained a traumatic brain injury, four skull fractures, multiple scrapes and memory loss due to his near-fatal car accident, but he stated he was grateful for the chance to still be alive.
That’s where his road to recovery began.
He spent approximately one month at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD and was then sent to the James A. Haley Veterans Affairs Hospital in Tampa, Fla. for two months of additional recovery. During his healing process in Tampa, Eldridge was approached by a Recovery Care Coordinator from the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program (AFW2).
Through the guidance of others in the program, he chose to become more involved with AFW2. “The program is about servicing warriors and supporting them in their recovery process,” said Kallie Quinn, AFW2 Sports Operations and Competition Specialist. “We meet them where they are at and help them go where they want to go in the future.”
Quinn has been working for the program for seven years and helps to assist warriors such as Eldridge during their recovery process.
AFW2 supports Airmen, Guardians, caregivers and their families, providing care to those who need it to recover and transition back to duty or into civilian life.
Wounded warriors can be involved in AFW2 through regional Warrior CARE events that integrate all support programs into one platform that include Caregiver and Family Support, Adaptive Sports, Ambassador Program, Recovering Airman Mentorship Program, Resiliency Program and Empowerment in Transition. Warriors are also able to compete in the Air Force Trials in order to try to make the team for the Warrior and Invictus Games.
“I love the work I do and being able to give back to the Air Force and our warriors,” said Quinn. “It is a true honor and pleasure to ‘Care Beyond Duty’ to serve our warriors.”
Eldridge has been attending these events for approximately four years while being stationed at Hurlburt Field. He enjoys adaptive sports events and has also become a certified mentor for others that are in the recovery process through the Recovering Airman Mentorship Program (RAMP). He attended three Air Force Trials events and earned numerous gold, silver and bronze medals for his work and sports involvement.
“A lot of people that suffer injuries think that they're just stuck at home, they think they can't do anything,” said Eldridge. “Adaptive sports lets you know that you can still participate, be active, challenge yourself and be competitive against other people.”
These programs can provide empowerment, support and community involvement that help build not only physical, but also mental resilience. One of Eldridge’s biggest challenges from his near-fatal car accident was dealing with his memory loss. He had a hard time remembering things which caused him to have to write down tasks in order for him not to forget.
He has made a full recovery despite the hardships he faced during his recovery and with the help of medical professionals and the AFW2, he has kept a positive attitude throughout the entire process.
“Desire, dedication and determination,” said Eldridge. “You need the desire to get better, you need to have the want. You then need to have the dedication for the process. To put in the time and the effort required. Lastly, you need to have the determination to reach that end goal. That is the best advice I try to express to people. You may not be 100% of the person you once were, but work on being 100% of where you are and what you have."