Honoring “her” promise to take care of Soldiers

Honoring “her” promise to take care of Soldiers Courtesy Photo | Patti and Kevin Walker. (Photo courtesy of Patti Walker)

By MaryTherese Griffin, Warrior Care and Transition

ARLINGTON, Va. - As an Army Wounded Warrior Advocate, Patti Walker not only talks the talk, she walks the walk with her Soldiers at Fort Riley, Kansas. Walker found herself in need of help in 2004 when her husband Kevin was grievously wounded in Baghdad. She received the news that he was very seriously injured, or VSI, and after days of not hearing where to go or what to do, suddenly passports were being expedited for her and her in-laws to travel to Germany.

“I got a phone call from the nurse in [the intensive care unit], that’s when they told me he was on life support,” Walker said of hearing about her then 36-year old husband’s situation. Kevin was in a coma for 22 days, lost an eye and underwent a craniotomy. Doctors approached Patti with a near impossible decision: remove Kevin from life support or have him live the rest of his life in a vegetative state. It was then that Patti made one solemn promise, “I promised God I would help others for the rest of my life if he brought my husband home.” Miraculously, within 24 hours Kevin started breathing on his own and became stable enough to be flown to Walter Reed.

“He woke up and didn’t know who I was, didn’t know he had kids, and didn’t know his parents,” Walker said. She spent the next two years in therapy with her husband while her in-laws helped with their two children. One day while out for a walk during therapy, Walker told her husband she needed to go back to work and he can stay home with the kids. He responded the old Kevin way, “You haven’t worked in 5 years! What? And…where are my Soldiers? What happened?”

Something clicked, and in that moment Walker knew two things: she had her husband back and that she needed to honor her promise. Walker began the Wounded Soldier Outreach and Support program at Fort Riley and was able to help 3rd Brigade with their newly wounded Soldiers.

“Army Wounded Warrior Program heard what I was doing and actually offered me a position. I’ve been an AW2 advocate ever since, said Walker.”

Her husband, eventually returned to duty and became the first Fort Riley Warrior Transition Unit First Sergeant. Since 2006, Walker and her husband have worked tirelessly to help Soldiers and their families through difficult times. Walker has also developed a process with her Soldiers and families as she gets to know them.

“I tell them now that I know about you, I want you to know who I am and why I do this job.”

The daily total recall she has about her family’s life being turned upside down in 2004 is what motivates her to help today’s Soldiers, and continue to keep the promise she made.

“I don’t ever want a Soldier or their family to ever feel like they are alone. I am here for you,” she added.