Adam Armstrong knows about conflict – the global kind and the internal kind.
“I went through some struggles, especially when I came off active duty.”
A veteran of the U.S. Air Force, Adam thrived on the purpose and structure that four years of active duty provided – and he spiraled without them.
“When I came home and I disconnected and lost that sense of mission, that’s what really led to a lot of my drinking and alcohol abuse,” he says.
The airman’s awakening came in the form of a car wreck, which led to a call to Alcoholics Anonymous and outreach that connected him with fellow veterans facing the same struggles.
“That gave me confidence and the tools I needed to be successful in sobriety,” Adam says. “(Those veterans) taking the time is really what helped me – and that’s what I strive to do with the veterans I work with.”
Since the summer of 2015, the Grand Island resident has served as a veteran support specialist with At Ease, a Lutheran Family Services initiative sponsored, in part, by a Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska Fearless Grant.
Adam knows his mission: supporting active military personnel, veterans and their families throughout central Nebraska, networking with them to help overcome financial, educational, employment or PTSD-related barriers to success.
“The great thing about At Ease is we don’t have a lot of rules. There are no income guidelines. We can serve any veteran, any currently serving military member and their loved ones,” Adam says. “We’re able to connect with people through a lot of different avenues, and the biggest thing for us is being able to treat the person as an individual. So many times, we can take a cookie-cutter approach to issues in our community.”
The biggest rewards, he says, come from the relationships. He recalls working with one veteran who was having some health and financial issues but was reluctant to ask for assistance.
“Due to the relationship we formed, we were able to assist him and his family, but that family also got connected to other veterans in the community. So, they now have a network of friends.”
A sense of duty after the 9/11 attacks – that pull to do something “bigger than myself” – compelled Adam to join the Air Force in 2002. On active duty until 2006, he spent another four years with the Nebraska Air National Guard, a commitment that saw deployments to Kuwait in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation New Dawn. Almost nine years sober, he says working with At Ease is a continuation of his call to service; his way of giving back to those veterans who helped him when he was struggling.
“Being able to be in my community, meet fellow veterans, talk to them and give them the support they need to get through their barriers is really what inspires me.”
“Faces of Fearless” is a storytelling series in Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska’s “Live Fearless” campaign celebrating people living their very best lives and inspiring others to do the same.