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Storytellers: "Everything you do is extraordinary"

Members of the crowd listen as U.S. Air Force Col. David S. Miller, 377 Air Base Wing commander, speaks during a Storytellers event at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., Nov. 15, 2019. During the event two speakers from Team Kirtland spoke on their resilience stories. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kimberly Nagle)

Members of the crowd listen as U.S. Air Force Col. David S. Miller, 377 Air Base Wing commander, speaks during a Storytellers event at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., Nov. 15, 2019. During the event two speakers from Team Kirtland spoke on their resilience stories. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kimberly Nagle)

U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. NAME, 377th Mission Support Group explosive ordnance disposal, tells his story of resilience during a Storytellers event at Kirtland Air Force Base, Nov. 15, 2019. The event was held to get people together and talk about resilience and hear the stories of those from around Team Kirtland. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kimberly Nagle)

U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Rory Stark, 377th Mission Support Group explosive ordnance disposal, tells his story of resilience during a Storytellers event at Kirtland Air Force Base, Nov. 15, 2019. The event was held to get people together and talk about resilience and hear the stories of those from around Team Kirtland. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kimberly Nagle)

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. --

Team Kirtland held a storyteller’s presentation to continue to address topics and concerns discussed during the resiliency tactical pause, Nov. 15, 2019.

The goal of the event was to encourage resiliency conversations. The program included speakers who told their personal stories of trials and how they overcame them. Then each group in attendance was given a list of questions and time to discuss what they heard and how it resonated with them.

The first speaker, U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Rory Stark, with the 377th explosive ordnance disposal unit, talked about dealing with near-death and personal trauma.

“[With] the stress and anxiety of being ‘on’ all the time and the acceptance of death, if I didn’t accept death, then I couldn’t do what I did. I’d be paralyzed,” said Stark. “There’s no way I could put on body armor. There’s no way I could protect those guys. There’s no way I could go up and mess with a live device.”

Stark said he’ll never be the person he used to be, but he’s learned ways to cope.

“You can’t unsee things, but you can take stuff out. Which I do all the time. I take stuff out of that closet. I look at it, I spin it around, I analyze it and then I put it neatly back in there, and that kind of keeps everything okay,” said Stark. “And sometimes those days are hard.”

Speaker Richard Gornal, with the 377th plans and programs office, faced a different set of challenges. He listed family illnesses and a death, which was immediately followed-up with the sting of his military career possibly ending through administrative actions. However, during all of this, he remained positive.

“Everything you do is extraordinary and it makes a difference in the lives you touch. I believe we are placed where we are for a reason in this path of life,” said Gornal.

After hearing the speakers’ presentations, U.S. Air Force Colonel David S. Miller, 377th Air Base Wing commander, agreed with Gornal that we each have the power to impact others’ lives.

“My hope, is that by us learning about other people’s stories, one, we realize that maybe the things we carry aren’t that heavy, compared to that,” said Miller. “And the other is, that we can all learn different skills on how to carry our own burdens and to be there to embrace those around us.”

Miller first experienced this type of resiliency forum at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana. He was inspired by how many people had the courage to stand up and tell their story. He says it’s this kind of deep, genuine sharing that makes us all better together.

For more information, or to volunteer as a speaker, contact Teresa Reinhard at 846-6427.

The next scheduled storyteller’s event will be Jan. 9, 2019.