Strangers as family 32nd AAMDC helps Soldier, family, in need
By Sgt. Aura E. Conejos, 32nd AAMDC Public Affairs:
(El Paso, Texas, April 20, 2017) The Army trains Soldiers for everything in defense of the nation. From how to combat cyber threats, engage an enemy through tactics and weaponry skills, to first aid and physical challenges, Soldiers are created to be warriors. In times of conflict, they use their warrior skills to adapt and overcome. There is a battle rhythm for training and a regimen to follow. At the end of training, they go home to their families and enjoy the calm after the storm.
What happens when the storm occurs in a Soldier’s family? By and large, Soldiers are not trained for life events that strike their families.
First Sgt. Victor Milam, Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command, emphasizes that units don’t train and cannot train for what may happen within their families. What the Army has done, though, is develop leaders whose influence extends beyond their direct contact. Sometimes, this means strangers helping strangers.
Milam, his spouse Rustie Milam and Soldiers assigned to the battery did exactly that when they encountered a situation with a Soldier outside their unit. Their actions proved that strangers helping strangers is exactly what the Army family is all about.
Sgt. William Thomas Warren, Jr., an air defense enhanced early warning operator assigned to Detachment A, 1st Space Company, 1st Space Battalion, U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command, was stationed in Stuttgart, Germany, but serving a tour of duty in Qatar, Feb. 21, when he received an American Red Cross message telling him that his wife, Nancy, a native of El Paso, was deathly ill.
Nancy Nicole Adame-Warren has been dealing with cerebral palsy and epilepsy for the majority of her life, but was suffering from aspiration pneumonia. Medical personnel had designated her a “code blue,” signaling her respiration had stopped, around the time her husband received the message to begin emergency leave.
“It’s like a kick in the chest,” Warren said.
Despite the stress of the situation, Warren used his Army training and a reminder from his parents to stay calm and collected. “Keep calm. Keep your head together … You can’t cognitively think about your situation if you’re going crazy over it,” he told himself.
With the assumption it would be a quick trip there and back after her recovery, he did not pack anything aside from civilian clothing. He did not even have a phone or phone card. When he arrived in El Paso, he discovered his wife would still be in the hospital for weeks and her condition would require him to stay by her side instead of returning to his unit.
Unprepared for the journey ahead, Warren’s command team overseas sent emails to fellow air defense senior leaders, including those within 32nd AAMDC, seeking help.
First Sgt. Milam was one recipient of that email traffic, but was downrange as well. Knowing his spouse, Rustie Milam, head of 32nd AAMDC’s Family Readiness Group, would be able to assist the Warren family, he sent the information to Rustie and senior noncommissioned officers in his ranks. Despite not knowing or working alongside Warren, they knew a fellow Soldier needed help and immediately took action.
“Taking care of this family is no different than taking care of the rest of the families (in the unit),” said Rustie Milam.
Rustie Milam has been assisting families for nearly 16 years as an Army spouse. She recalls multiple situations when extraordinary life events have occurred and she had to take action to assist.
“I swore to serve God and our country by taking care of families in 2002 (when Victor joined the Army) and that’s been my job,” Rustie Milam said.
Whether helping families for an unexpected permanent change of station or helping save a life in a discreet way, she emulates the same leadership her husband does with his Soldiers.
Initially, not knowing Warren’s unit, she sought the information, but responded to incoming questions with a firm answer, “It’s important we take care of this family and this Soldier.”
Rustie Milam, alongside Staff Sgt. Joshua Lynn Desmond, platoon sergeant, HHB, the executive officer at the time, and the Unit Ministry Team, facilitated resources for the family, took charge of gathering a proper uniform for Warren to wear and visited Warren, Nancy Adame-Warren, and their son, William Ezra, in the hospital, ensuring all their needs were met. During visits to the hospital, Warren received mentorship from 1st Sgt. Milam, while Nancy had support and company through Rustie, who assured their families that they would be welcomed and cared for at the 32nd AAMDC.
The command team began working on transferring William to the unit to fulfill his work and family duties. Through the visits and providing of clothing and resources, strangers became family.
Fellowship and selfless service bring Soldiers and their families together as one unit, united by the conviction that helping others is at the forefront.
Though her recovery is ongoing, Nancy has become a part of the FRG family. She will work alongside Rustie to encourage other spouses within the unit to become involved so they can continue to take care of families.
“I feel very blessed that there are people, even if they’re strangers that you can still count on,” said Nancy Adame-Warren. “They’ll do anything for you at the drop of a hat.”
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, there are eight varying definitions of the word “family.” The first several provide what we most associate with families: persons living under the same roof or sharing common ancestry. Not too far down the list, though, it states a family can be “a group of people united by certain convictions or a common affiliation,” with an associating term, fellowship.
We can apply the latter definition of family to the term “Army family,” which describes providing care for fellow Soldiers and those in Army households. It not only encompasses the comrades or friends made at each new duty station, but encompasses strangers that are tied through their affiliation with the Army and conviction of protecting and serving. It is said that when a Soldier serves, their family members serve as well. The Army family is truly about strangers helping strangers because they share a common bond.
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