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Deployed Airman uses fitness event to honor aunt’s fight against cancer

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Christopher Stoltz
  • 386th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
Airmen from the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing and coalition partners recently joined forces during an event to raise awareness and support the fight against cancer. However, for one Airman, the fight was a little more personal.

“My aunt was diagnosed with breast cancer in January of 2017,” said Staff Sgt. Patrick Bierman, 386th Expeditionary Force Support Squadron rations water non-commissioned officer in charge. “She went through 29 weeks of antibiotics and chemo and radiation and was cancer free as of August 2017. This event gave me the chance to honor her and her fight.”

The event Bierman mentioned allowed participants to complete weight lifting-exercises in exchange for donations toward various charities supporting the fight against cancer. Capt. Christopher O’Daniel, 387th Air Expeditionary Group executive officer and event coordinator, said this was the first time many individuals were weightlifting in this capacity.

“This event allowed Airmen and coalition partners to honor cancer survivors and raise awareness about reducing cancer risk,” said O’Daniel.

While the event did not require donations, O’Daniel said the most impressive thing about the event wasn’t the pounds that were lifted, it was the service members’ eagerness to learn and the personal contributions they made toward the cause.

O’Daniel, an avid weightlifter deployed here from Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, said he heard about the event for the first time last year when he was competing at the American Open Series for Olympic Weightlifting.

“I thought of the event and knew it would be a great opportunity to combine spreading the knowledge and fun of the Olympic movements with a great cause,” said O’Daniel. “Both are important aspects in my life, this gave me an opportunity to highlight them.”

Like O’Daniel, the most important aspect of the event for Bierman was not the amount of weight lifted, but stressing early detection – the reason his aunt is still alive today.

“Early detection helped make my aunt’s journey a success,” said Bierman, who is deployed here from the 132nd Wing in Des Moines, Iowa. “She was able to overcome her breast cancer and she is now living her life to the fullest. If she didn’t catch it as early as she did, I fear we would be telling a much different story.”

Bierman said his aunt’s struggles during her cancer treatment opened his eyes to the physical toll cancer takes on someone’s body – and the emotional damage it causes as well. He went on to say that while he began weightlifting during this deployment to make himself stronger, he only hopes to one day be as strong as his aunt.

“She taught me how to stay strong in my faith, love my family, and stand my ground,” said Bierman. “Her constant fight and willingness to do what it takes to survive inspires me.”