Editor’s note: These stories were produced by the Department of Defense and published here as part of a partnership with Military Times.
Newnan, Georgia is located 40 miles southwest of Atlanta and is the home of Alan Jackson and two Medal of Honor Recipients. According to ExploreGeorgia.com, it also boasts six National Register Historic Districts that includes the city courthouse built in 1902. This town of 42K is also the birthplace of Senior Airman (ret.) Sharliett Cardenas.
Sharliett joined the Air Force in 2019, where she learned Hebrew at the Presidio in Monterey, California becoming a Cryptologic Language Analyst. She counts her newly acquired skill as one of her most proud moments in the Air Force.
“I actually learned a second language,” she said. “Learning Hebrew was difficult with the verb conjugations and nuances to the language. It made me proud, and is something I still stay fluent in.”
During a conversation at the 2023 Air Force Trials in Las Vegas, Nevada, she joked that she preferred listening to the news from Hebrew sources, as they tend to be more balanced.
“You do have to be careful though,” she said. “The subtleties of the language can lead to interpretations that may skew based on the topic.”
In 2020, she developed an infection that led to the removal of her entire large intestine, leaving her with painful scars that left her in pain most days. Despite the pain and the scars, she maintains a positive attitude that can be contagious.
“People may look at my scars and see a body that is wounded,” she said. “But, when I look in the mirror, I see a body that has overcome such adversity. I may be wounded, but trust me, I’m inside the body of a warrior.”
“She is the most determined young lady,” said Kelly Madden-Bass, a recovery care coordinator for the Air Force Wounded Warrior Program. “Sharliett was determined to get better and would always talk about the next step in her recovery, from planning to be a tattoo artist to getting married.”
During Sharliett’s recovery, her mother and brother moved to San Antonio, Texas to be by her side. She also married her boyfriend who was able to get a humanitarian reassignment to Fort Sam Houston, enabling him to better help in her recovery.
One area Sharliett focused on in her recovery was her physical health, especially in sports. This led her to compete at her first Air Force Trials in 2023 where she earned a slot on Team Air Force. Her experience competing alongside other wounded warriors, helped give her the confidence to push harder than she expected she could.
“It’s nice to be around people who get it,” she said. “Most people have never had near-death experiences quite like the Wounded Warriors I’ve met. I don’t feel so abnormal or strange for my medical stories, situation, or my scars.”
Recovery is a never-ending process with obstacles that can hinder anyone, even Sharliett. Her determination and positive mental attitude is so obvious to those around her that it seems like nothing could rattle her.
“I learned that healing takes time, time takes patience, and patience is a virtue,” she said. “Although no one is virtuous all the time, your body is healing all the time and while patience comes and goes, you can’t give up on the process because it’s not giving up on you.”
You can follow Sharliett’s story on the AFW2 Facebook page at www.facebook.com/airforcewoundedwarrior. Learn more about AFW2 at www.woundedwarrior.af.mil.