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MacDill’s LIFTx 2019: Leaders Inspiring for Tomorrow

David Roever, a Purple Heart recipient and a U.S. Navy Vietnam War veteran, shares his personal story of perseverance at the Leaders Inspiring for Tomorrow seminar at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., Sept. 23, 2019.

David Roever, a Purple Heart recipient and a U.S. Navy Vietnam War veteran, shares his personal story of perseverance at the Leaders Inspiring for Tomorrow seminar at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., Sept. 23, 2019. Guest speakers David Villa, U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Susan Smith, Kristen Cristy and a retired U.S. Air Force security police K-9 handler, Morgan Watt, with his service dog, Foley, spoke about real challenges military personnel face from overcoming adversity on the frontlines of a battlefield, to living with post-traumatic stress disorder and to conquering cancer. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Scott Warner)

The Leaders Inspiring for Tomorrow 2019 seminar had guest speakers share their personal and compelling stories of overcoming adversity at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., Sept. 23, 2019.

The Leaders Inspiring for Tomorrow 2019 seminar had guest speakers share their personal and compelling stories of overcoming adversity at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., Sept. 23, 2019. David Villa, U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Susan Smith, Kristen Cristy and a retired U.S. Air Force security police K-9 handler, Morgan Watt, with his service dog, Foley, spoke about real challenges military personnel face from the frontlines of a battlefield, to living with post-traumatic stress disorder and to conquering cancer. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Scott Warner)

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Susan Smith speaks about overcoming bone cancer at the Leaders Inspiring for Tomorrow seminar at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., Sept. 23, 2019.

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Susan Smith speaks about overcoming bone cancer at the Leaders Inspiring for Tomorrow seminar at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., Sept. 23, 2019. David Villa, Lt. Col. Susan Smith, Kristen Cristy and a retired U.S. Air Force security police K-9 handler, Morgan Watt, with his service dog, Foley, spoke about real challenges military personnel face from overcoming adversity on the frontlines of a battlefield, to living with post-traumatic stress disorder and to conquering cancer. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Scott Warner)

U.S. Air Force Col. Stephen Snelson, the 6th Air Mobility Wing commander, gives closing remarks at the Leaders Inspiring for Tomorrow seminar at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., Sept. 23, 2019.

U.S. Air Force Col. Stephen Snelson, the 6th Air Mobility Wing commander, gives closing remarks at the Leaders Inspiring for Tomorrow seminar at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., Sept. 23, 2019. Guest speakers David Villa, U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Susan Smith, Kristen Cristy and a retired U.S. Air Force security police K-9 handler, Morgan Watt, with his service dog, Foley, spoke about real challenges military personnel face from overcoming adversity on the frontlines of a battlefield, to living with post-traumatic stress disorder and to conquering cancer. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Scott Warner)

Retired U.S. Air Force security policeman and K-9 handler, Morgan Watt, speaks about overcoming post-traumatic stress disorder and battling thoughts of suicide at the Leaders Inspiring for Tomorrow seminar at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., Sept. 23, 2019.

Retired U.S. Air Force security policeman and K-9 handler, Morgan Watt, speaks about overcoming post-traumatic stress disorder and battling thoughts of suicide at the Leaders Inspiring for Tomorrow seminar at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., Sept. 23, 2019. David Villa, U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Susan Smith, Kristen Cristy and a retired U.S. Air Force security police K-9 handler, Morgan Watt, with his service dog, Foley, spoke about real challenges military personnel face from overcoming adversity on the frontlines of a battlefield, to living with post-traumatic stress disorder and to conquering cancer. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Scott Warner)

MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. --

Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright described resiliency as “the ability to recover from, or adjust easily, to misfortune or change.”

MacDill based its second annual Leaders Inspiring for Tomorrow (LIFTx) seminar around resiliency to continue growing this skill in its Airmen.

“This summit is not a conference, but a conversation sparked by five storytellers whose ideas and actions have transformed their lives, their organizations, their industries and even the world,” said Capt. Courtney A. Cronin, MacDill’s LIFTx lead project officer. “These people who combine passion, creativity, intelligence and discipline to get things done in new and meaningful ways can inspire our base personnel to deepen their own commitment to personal, spiritual and professional leadership while enhancing their own resiliency.”

The speakers for this year’s event were retired U.S. Navy river boat gunner, Dave Roever, U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Susan Smith, David Villa, Kristen Cristy and retired U.S. Air Force security police first responder and K-9 handler, Morgan Watt, with his service dog, Foley.

Watt spoke specifically about his life-long struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and battling the thoughts of suicide.

“The power of vulnerability is important because being willing to admit that you have a problem and to ask for help is the first step [in overcoming PTSD or suicide],” said Watt. “Our warriors are not home, nor is the battle won, until the symptoms of the greatest epidemic of invisible wounds ceases to haunt our daily lives.”

Watt spoke about how having three principles: planning your next objective, developing a network of people you can trust and having someone you can confide in at any time, can help anyone who is struggling with mental health issues.
A favorite from last year’s LIFTx seminar was David Roever, a Purple Heart recipient and Vietnam War veteran, who spoke about his personal story of perseverance despite suffering multiple injuries after a white phosphorous grenade detonated inches from his face during the Vietnam War.

“Hope is the last line of defense against suicide,” said Roever. “It does matter, [have the conversation], get involved.”

Roever was permanently scarred and burned beyond recognition, yet he spoke about how hope and people caring made him more resilient to depression and suicide.

While each speaker offered insight into their personal struggles, the combine mental health issues of depression, PTSD and suicide make up a lethal force that active-duty service members and veterans battle with every day.

During LIFTx closing remarks, the 6th Air Mobility Wing commander, Col. Stephen Snelson, spoke about the ongoing battle against mental health issues to his Airmen and the need to help one another.

“This is a war,” Snelson emphasized. “Just like with any adversary we are fighting out there, we don’t go to war alone, we go to war as a team, so what will you do for those teammates?”

The seminar was held in the base theater with around 600 base personnel in attendance and livestreamed for many more across Facebook. To experience LIFTx, please follow MacDill’s Facebook and YouTube pages.