For many Airmen, volunteering often leads to enhanced professional development and a stronger performance report, but for Airman 1st Class Nathan Hall, a cyber transport technician from the 747th Communications Squadron, volunteering at the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program 2020 U.S. Pacific Air Forces Warrior CARE event meant so much more.
At the beginning of each event, Air Force Wounded Warrior, or AFW2, staff meets with volunteers to assign and explain roles and responsibilities; educate them on what the congressionally-mandated, federally-funded program does for seriously wounded, ill and injured Airmen and their families; and collect contact information to ensure a successful and well-coordinated event.
It was during this immersion that Hall approached program coordinators and asked if it would be acceptable to bring his son, Tucker, along for the event. Without knowing the Hall family’s story, AFW2 leadership quickly extended an invitation.
“I wanted to bring my son when I volunteered during the track and field events to expose him to the higher levels of adaptive sports, and give him a chance to see something to look forward to and learn from,” Hall said.
Tucker, who is 4, was born with spina bifida in his lower back, and does not have mobility below the waist. And while his struggles are mainly physical, he does not let them define him.
“He has the most incredible outlook on life,” Hall said. “We know that everything will be a challenge for him, but we do not let him feel sorry for something he cannot control. As his parents, we just have to learn to adapt and overcome; it is what he has done his entire life. The happiness I saw on his face when he met these amazing warriors who do not let their physical challenges define who they are was so special.”
Tucker immediately took to athletes who were using wheelchairs just like him, and was given a warm welcome by the coaching staff and adaptive sports participants. At one point, Tucker found himself going head-to-head on the track against internationally-decorated Team U.S. member for the 2020 Invictus Games, retired Chief Master Sgt. Garrett Kuwada; Tucker won.
At the end of the training day, Tucker was presented with an AFW2 coin by Col. Michael Flatten, the program’s director.
“These events are for more than just the athletes and their caregivers,” Flatten said. “They give us the opportunity to instill hope in those who attend our events, and show them what it really means to be part of our AFW2 family. We could not be more proud of the competitive spirit Tucker is already exhibiting, and all he has overcome at such a young age. This young man is truly a warrior.”
For the Hall family, spending time with the wounded warriors and staff was a reminder of the importance of resiliency and positivity in the face of adversity.
“With proper physical therapy, a happy outlook and hopefully advanced research, Tucker’s goal of walking someday feels within reach,” Hall said. “Tucker had an amazing time meeting the staff and athletes who were here, and has not stopped talking about his coin.”
At a young age, Tucker already has the desire to serve others; his goal is to one day become a firefighter or a police officer.
“Initially, I brought him to give him a chance to watch these adaptive sports, but from the very beginning, the AFW2 team included him every step of the way. As a parent, it was incredible to see, and I am deeply grateful,” Hall said.
“Seeing him have this opportunity filled me with immense pride to be a part of such a great Air Force family – one that takes care of their own in ways like this,” he continued. “It showed him that anything is truly possible when you tell yourself that you are going to overcome the challenges along the road ahead.”