Joint Base Pearl Harbor - For Navy cryptologist Amanda Wirtz, the harsh reality was that a group of fellow shipmates conspired in facilitating a horrific sexual assault. Instead of throwing in the towel, Wirtz focused on living and continuing to serve with a majority who were her brothers and sisters in arms - not animals.
Despite that dreadful night, in the years that followed, the young sailor excelled and was assigned to dynamic duty assignments in Spain, Iraq, Yugoslavia, Canada and Washington DC. It wasn’t until years and numerous duty assignments later, that the Petty Officer Second Class Wirtz would face a much larger foe: Dercum’s Disease. With pain similar to shingles on steroids, tumors began popping up all over her body. Wirtz was medically discharged and forced to leave the service she loved. With over 30 tumors removed, doctors heralded a harrowing refrain: there’s no way out… this is a rare, progressive and incurable disease.
The problem for the Disease was that this Sailor was a fighter!
Ultimately, Wirtz would become a leading authority on her own disease. She would also internalize and face the real truths behind her disease and life choices. “Early on, I contemplated suicide – my life had become my worst nightmare come true. I decided that I would either kill myself or die fighting. Having lost my life as I knew it, I jumped into the ring - I committed to do everything I could to help myself and others. I turned my pain into passion … and with perseverance, changed the entire trajectory of my life.”
Over the course of numerous years of study and practical application, she developed a balanced combination of mental, emotional and physical strength training. Combined with dietary refinement to name a few life changes, she stopped the tumors dead in their tracks and diminished the pain substantially. “In the end it came down to asking myself the right questions and applying real effort to the answers.”
This week American300 returns to Marine Corps Base Hawaii and the 15th Wing of the Air Force at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii with it’s ‘Service with Honor’ series featuring the nonprofit’s newest mentor - Amanda Wirtz.
“Like so many of our mentors, Amanda came to us via word of mouth. Her story of never quitting is beyond compelling and her positive never look back outlook on life is infectious - contagious,” says Colonel John R. Bates Jr., a retired Marine Corps three-time combat wounded warrior who has been mentoring with the nonprofit since 2012, adding “We have professional military education modules on resiliency which are being taught in military classrooms and online, American300 simply delivers real life examples of resiliency to support the teachings, make the subject matter more relatable.”
Wirtz, who is a renowned concert violin player, will also share her passion for music with the Marines and Airmen she meets. “We vetted Amanda based on her incredible approach to life in the face of insurmountable obstacles, then we found out she has this amazing musical ability,” says Robi Powers, founder of American300, who points out, “Amanda saves no punches for how important facing the truth is in life, her approach to overcoming adversity on a daily basis requires constant personal accountability and effort - the musician in her is just an amazing bonus.”
The all volunteer American300 Tours, support the Department of Defense’s comprehensive resiliency educational programs. Volunteer mentors deploy on a monthly basis throughout the world, sharing real life stories of resiliency in a way that service members find: likable, relevant and relatable. For more information on how to schedule American300 guest visits to a specific command please contact the nonprofit via: www.American300.org