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Storytellers: Healing through sharing

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Airman 1st Class Robert Valencia-Aiken, 21st Aerospace Medical Squadron public health technician, tells his story of being adopted at the age of four from Colombia to gaining United States citizenship the day of the Storytellers event at the Club, Nov. 21, 2014. Storytellers is a live event where fellow Airmen share their stories of resilience, motivation and professional pride in a relaxing environment that allows the audience to connect and learn. (Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tiffany DeNault)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Airman 1st Class Robert Valencia-Aiken, 21st Aerospace Medical Squadron public health technician, tells his story of being adopted at the age of four from Colombia to gaining United States citizenship the day of the Storytellers event at the Club, Nov. 21, 2014. Storytellers is a live event where fellow Airmen share their stories of resilience, motivation and professional pride in a relaxing environment that allows the audience to connect and learn. (Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tiffany DeNault)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Maj. Wendy Kaegy, 21st Medical Group health care integrator, tells her story of sexual abuse before and during her military career during Storytellers at the Club, Nov. 21, 2014. Storytellers is a live event where fellow Airmen share their stories of resilience, motivation and professional pride in a relaxing environment that allows the audience to connect and learn. (Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tiffany DeNault)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Maj. Wendy Kaegy, 21st Medical Group health care integrator, tells her story of sexual abuse before and during her military career during Storytellers at the Club, Nov. 21, 2014. Storytellers is a live event where fellow Airmen share their stories of resilience, motivation and professional pride in a relaxing environment that allows the audience to connect and learn. (Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tiffany DeNault)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Capt. Travis Black, 21st Logistics Readiness Squadron quality assurance officer in charge, tells his story of saving a girl’s life by donating his bone marrow during Storytellers at the Club, Nov. 21, 2014. Storytellers is a live event where fellow Airmen share their stories of resilience, motivation and professional pride in a relaxing environment that allows the audience to connect and learn. (Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tiffany DeNault)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Capt. Travis Black, 21st Logistics Readiness Squadron quality assurance officer in charge, tells his story of saving a girl’s life by donating his bone marrow during Storytellers at the Club, Nov. 21, 2014. Storytellers is a live event where fellow Airmen share their stories of resilience, motivation and professional pride in a relaxing environment that allows the audience to connect and learn. (Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tiffany DeNault)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Staff Sgt. Danniel DeJesus, North American Aerospace Defense Command intelligence analyst, tells his story of divorce and child custody battles during Storytellers at the Club, Nov. 21, 2014. Storytellers is a live event where fellow Airmen share their stories of resilience, motivation and professional pride in a relaxing environment that allows the audience to connect and learn. (Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tiffany DeNault)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Staff Sgt. Danniel DeJesus, North American Aerospace Defense Command intelligence analyst, tells his story of divorce and child custody battles during Storytellers at the Club, Nov. 21, 2014. Storytellers is a live event where fellow Airmen share their stories of resilience, motivation and professional pride in a relaxing environment that allows the audience to connect and learn. (Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tiffany DeNault)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Staff Sgt. Holden Montgomery, Air Force Space Command administrative support technician, tells his story of being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder during Storytellers at the Club, Nov. 21, 2014. Storytellers is a live event where fellow Airmen share their stories of resilience, motivation and professional pride in a relaxing environment that allows the audience to connect and learn. (Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tiffany DeNault)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Staff Sgt. Holden Montgomery, Air Force Space Command administrative support technician, tells his story of being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder during Storytellers at the Club, Nov. 21, 2014. Storytellers is a live event where fellow Airmen share their stories of resilience, motivation and professional pride in a relaxing environment that allows the audience to connect and learn. (Air Force photo by Senior Airman Tiffany DeNault)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- At Peterson AFB's second iteration of Storytellers, an eager audience shared laughs and tears as five of Team Pete's own presented some of the most intimate moments of their lives.

The stories included tales of hardship and triumph, overcoming tremendous odds, and true sacrifice.

Airman 1st Class Robert Valencia-Aiken, 21st Aerospace Medicine Squadron public health technician, told of his journey to the United States from Colombia after being adopted by his aunt and uncle at the age of four.

The hope of Valencia-Aiken's adoption was to secure a better future for him in America, until they discovered his adoption process was never finalized and he technically did not "exist."

During his journey to gain citizenship, Valencia-Aiken was, for a time, homeless, but persevered until eventually enlisting in the Air Force.

The day culminated joyously for Valencia-Aiken. Immediately after departing the Storyteller's stage he and his wife made the short drive from Colorado Springs to Denver for his naturalization ceremony to finally become an American citizen.

Another Storyteller that day was Maj. Wendy Kaegy, 21st Medical Group health care integrator, who shared her story of being sexually abused until she was 17 years old and able to join the military and escape her nightmare.

During a deployment to the Middle East, Kaegy was again sexually assaulted while her supervising NCO at the time watched on in amusement.

Years later, Kaegy finally realized she truly needed help after having a nervous breakdown in her kitchen, but was saved by her husband who helped her along the path to recovery.

The event concluded with Capt. Travis Black's story about how he volunteered for the national bone marrow registry, which led to saving the life of a nine-year-old girl diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia.

When contacted about donating, Black unhesitatingly agreed to volunteer.

He recalled the procedure to extract his marrow much less painful than he'd been warned it would be. One year after his donation, he was flown to Portland, Ore., to meet the girl and community he'd saved all because of a simple out-patient procedure.

One of the attendees that day was Maj. Mark Olson, Public Health flight commander.

Olson, who had the privilege of attending the first-ever Storytellers at Incirlik AFB in Turkey, was also in attendance for Team Pete's Storytellers event last year.

The fact that Storytellers provides a setting to get to know people on a deeper level is one of the reasons Olson said he enjoys this event.

"Getting to hear what (the Storytellers) have been through and how they overcame their adversity is an amazing thing," said Olson. "Hearing what other Airmen have been through, I think, is a great way for others to relate and be able to help themselves."

Also in attendance that day was Tech. Sgt. Ellen Cooly, 21st Space Wing NCO in-charge of wing personnel programs.

"I loved the fact that each of the stories was so heartfelt and touching," said Cooley.

She added that Storytellers was a great outlet for both the speakers and the audience because it provided a cathartic experience that allowed the audience to empathize and sympathize with each experience.

Anyone interested in coordinating or participating in Team Pete's next Storytellers event, contact 21st SW Public Affairs at 556-5185.

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