AFMC Command News

Resiliency message emphasizes community importance

  • Published
  • By Kevin Gaddie
  • Team Eglin Public Affairs

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- The base hosted two resiliency training sessions here Oct. 2.

Kristen Christy, a national resilience trainer, shared her message with base personnel, including her own heartbreaking story of tragic losses.

Christy grew up in an Air Force family.  She learned the importance of community as her family transferred to different duty stations in the U.S. and overseas.

“My parents taught me and my brother to imbed in our community, everywhere we lived,” she said. 

Christy experienced her first resiliency test at age 15, when she suffered a stroke in November 1983 while in Germany.

“The prognosis was if I lived, I would never walk again,” she said.

Her stroke happened six days after the bombing attacks in Beirut, Lebanon Oct. 28, 1983.  The injured personnel were sent to military bases in Europe for treatment.  As a result, there were no neurosurgeons available to operate. 

Christy’s community connections led her to a top neurosurgeon in Texas.  She was air evacuated there, underwent surgery and endured the long road to recovery.            

Through self-determination, therapy and help from family and community, Christy learned to walk again in a year-and-a-half.  Later, she walked across the graduation stage unassisted to receive her high school diploma.

“My faith and the superpower of my community played a huge part in my recovery,” she said.

More major resiliency tests followed into Christy’s adult life.

She met and married Don Christy, an Air Force officer, while they were in college.  The couple taught their two children to imbed with their communities at every duty station, as she did through childhood.

Don joined the Air Force Reserves and deployed to Iraq in 2003.  It was there that things changed for him, she said.

“When Don came home from deployment, what drew me to him in college was gone,” she said.  “Through circumstances during the deployment, he became a different person.  I tried to give him the time and space he needed, but things were never the same.”

Don never recovered from his deployment experiences and committed suicide in 2008.

“His choice has everlasting effects on our family,” she said.

Christy said she made one phone call and her home was filled with community members helping her and her sons Ryan and Ben, who were 15 and 12 respectively, at the time of the tragedy.

She said they were diagnosed with secondary post-traumatic stress disorder. She added that community members guided her family to counseling services to help them through their emotional trauma.   

Their youngest son, Ben, later attempted suicide but is now doing well.  Ryan, diagnosed with bipolar disorder after his father’s death, went missing in 2015 and was never found.

Christy shared what made her resilient through her painful life tragedies.

“Resilience is something you learn and get better at,” she said.  “Life is a cruel, tough teacher.  We get the test first and then learn the lesson.  Don’t be afraid to reach out to your community for help.  With help from your community, you can grow stronger through the adversities you go through.”