We Are The Freedom Wing: Medical scare changes course of Airman’s career, life

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Sean Evans

The 514th Air Mobility Wing is home to a diverse group of more than 2,000 Airmen and civilians who each have a unique story and contribution to the mission. The ‘We Are The Freedom Wing’ series was created to highlight these Reserve Citizen Airmen.

The Airmen of the 514th Air Mobility Wing each have a unique story that led to their current positions within the Freedom Wing. One such Reserve Citizen Airman, Tech. Sgt. Patrick Donavon, a personnellist with the 514th Mission Support Group, joined the Air Force in 2011 to get himself through college after spending four years in his high school ROTC program.

Donavon first served as an active duty KC-10 Extender boom operator.

“My parents could have put me through school, but it would have been straining,” Donavon said. “Plus, I was born and raised in the San Diego area so I wanted to get away. The Air Force is an opportunity to travel and go to school. When I became a boom operator, it was a no-brainer to go to New Jersey.”

Unfortunately, a collapsed lung forced him out of his job field. An initial medical checkup failed to identify the collapsed lung, which Donavon continued to unwittingly endure for three days until a second doctor’s visit and X-ray revealed the injury.

“I was driving when they called me and said, ‘You need to pull over immediately, you’ve had a lung collapse. One of your lungs has been completely deflated for three days so you need go to the E.R. immediately,’” Donavon recalled.

He spent a week in the hospital and his time as a boom operator came to an end.

“I had to pick another job so I switched to personnel, but I didn’t enjoy active duty so much,” Donavon said. “I joined the Reserve and just loved the environment, I felt comfortable.”

Since making the transition, Donavon has provided valuable support at the Freedom Wing by helping to set up CSS Prime, training his Airmen in its use, and ensuring its smooth operation. He has also planted his roots since moving here to the East Coast.

“I feel like that’s where I’ve actually been raised, here in New Jersey,” Donavon said. “I settled down, I have a family now, and I have no intention of moving.”

The Reserve also helped him focus on one of the reasons he joined the Air Force--school.

“I saw it as an opportunity to do what I originally planned, which was to go to school full time,” he said.

The tech sergeant graduated from a one-year nursing program at Thomas Jefferson University last month.

“Now I’m in the process of getting hired at a cardiac unit,” Donavon said. “It’s a stepping stone to eventually becoming a midwife.”

Donavon has put his military experience to good use in his civilian endeavors.

“I’m going through a lot of interviews right now and every single time the easiest thing to use is my experience in the military,” Donavon said. “I’ve always held a leadership position and had to overcome challenges in the Reserve and active duty. I feel like having the military as a stepping stone to get me into the civilian world is a great boon.”

If you or a wingman would like to be featured in the 'We Are The Freedom Wing' series please send an email with details to 514amw.pa@us.af.mil