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Meet Tatyana; It's all about being resilient

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- As we spend Wingman Day 2012 discussing resiliency and Comprehensive Airman Fitness, allow me a moment to introduce you to Tatyana. While not an Airman, Tatyana exemplifies the spirit we should all aspire to develop.

Tatyana was born with spina bifida in St. Petersburg, Russia. Paralyzed from the waist down, she lived for six years in a poor Russian orphanage that could not afford to buy her a wheelchair. Refusing to give up or give in to her circumstances, Tatyana learned to walk on her hands. Fortunately, she was later adopted by an American named Debbie McFadden.

In an effort to bolster her new daughter's strength, Debbie introduced her to sports. Tatyana was particularly fond of wheelchair racing. She was so devoted to succeeding that at 15, she became the youngest member ever on the U.S. Paralympics Team.

Tatyana is now known by her teammates as "the Beast" because of her terrific shoulder strength and grueling work ethic.

She won silver medals in the 200m, 400m, and 800m wheelchair races at the Beijing Paralympics, followed by a 2009 victory in the Chicago Marathon, and two gold medals in the 400m and 800m races at the London Paralympics in 2012.

Tatyana is an inspiring woman. From the time she was a child, she has overcome extremely challenging circumstances.

I'm sure there were days when she felt like giving up or wanted to wallow in self-pity over the unfair life she had been given. At times, we also are faced with painful situations that threaten to overwhelm us and make us want to give up. Instead of giving up, we must choose to rise above our circumstances and let them strengthen us.

Perhaps more importantly, we must not be too proud to grab hold of the helping hands extended toward us. For those of us with strength to spare, we must be ready to help with an encouraging word, a strong back, and a listening ear.

As Airmen, we are all part of one team and one military family. Let's stand ready to give or accept help when needed so that, together, we can achieve great things for the Air Force and the nation.