GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
On Dec. 16, 2016 President Barack Obama declared Oct. 5 as American Veterans Disabled for Life day, which coincides with the dedication of the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial in Washington.
There are 1,020 civilians working here at Goodfellow, most of those are veterans, and within that group many are disabled.
Kurt Hoffmaster, 17th Training Support Squadron chief of information technology units, and a disable veteran, continues to serve and excel, showing a fighter’s spirit remains.
“Although I have some limitations that limit me physically, I still have a lot of things that I can do,” said Hoffmaster, who over the years has reached roughly 90 percent disability due his time in service. “I have had two neck surgeries, I have herniated discs from my C3 to C5. I have them fused, I have metal plates from my C3 to my T1 and they took a bone out of my hip and fused it into my neck. I also have hearing loss, tinnitus, anxiety, an impinged shoulder nerve and I currently have neuropathy in both of my arms.”
Over the years and despite the increase in disabilities, Hoffmaster wants to achieve more.
“My wife is a nurse and tells me that I shouldn’t be doing all of the things that I am doing but I don’t want to lose my edge,” said Hoffmaster.
This was not always the case for Hoffmaster.
“After my second surgery I was a little lethargic,” said Hoffmaster. “I was laying around the house and my daughter came up to me said ‘hey dad, how many months pregnant are you?’ and it was an eye opener.”
Hoffmaster knew that to create change you have to have the right people in your life.
“I remember someone saying that you are the sum of your five closest friends so I got a training partner and he really pushed me, but I also pushed him,” said Hoffmaster. “While we were working out he told me ‘you can really bench, why don’t you compete?’ I decided to give it a try and two years ago I was the base champion in the welterweight division.”
People that encourage, and a community that supports, helped Hoffmaster over the years.
“Most of the civilians here are retired military and that helps to communicate with everybody, because disabled or retired vets have a lot of information,” explained Hoffmaster. “When you go to the Veterans Affairs sometimes it is confusing, especially if you don’t know what to ask for. We also talk about other things out there, different avenues that are available or individuals that can help.”
As a VA representative, Christopher Curry, 17th TSS training technician, is one of those individuals who can help.
“I have a passion for helping other veterans out,” said Curry. “There is a lot of information out there that has not been given out and I try to get it out there as much as I can. I also help network as well, getting other veterans in contact with the right people either other veterans or programs to help with health, their medical or home loans.”
Finding those that can coach or guide can make dealing with new challenges easier.
“There is a good group of folks here and we help each other out,” said Hoffmaster. “It is not about trying to get extra money for disabilities, it is about getting that medical care and help that is needed. When you go to the VA they will also go over all of the options that are available. I use the web page My HealtheVet, which is www.myhealth.va.gov, you can use it for prescriptions or appointments, but you have to talk to people to learn the different avenues available. I know and have seen that there are those who are worse off than me, but there are people out there that can help.”