Video highlights Airman’s ‘interesting’ resilience

LOUISVILLE, Tenn. — A video feature that highlights an Airman’s setback and recovery from open heart surgery was published online recently by the Air National Guard’s training and education center.

“I had wanted to produce a feature video about overcoming adversity this year and found Sergeant Wither’s story compelling,” said Master Sgt. Kelly Collett, a videographer assigned to the I.G. Brown Training and Education Center in East Tennessee.

Collett produced the video, “The Most Interesting Man in the Guard,” which highlights Senior Master Sgt. Shaun Withers, Production Branch superintendent, and how heart surgery for bovine valve replacement altered his active lifestyle. You can watch it at

In the video, according to Collett’s description, Withers returned to the kind of fun-going-style activities that make for an interesting character: brewing, sky-diving, motorcycling, and hockey. He also fits the Air Force’s overall message of mental, physical, social and spiritual fitness.

“Honestly, it is flattering to have a story produced on this,” said Withers, who leads a public affairs team that develops professional and continuing education products at TEC. “I don’t much like the spotlight, but if it helps someone else, then it’s worth any embarrassment it might cause. It’s a story of resiliency, wrapped in a fun package, and that’s what the Air Force is talking about.”

Recovery did not get off to the perfect start for Withers – his first months of post-surgery he was dismayed and thrown off of his adventures irrationally over his health, he admitted. Those close to him were his support system who told him to shed his fears and get active again.

“I’ve never been a sit on the couch guy,” said Withers. So the feature shows Withers back enjoying life in many ways, as he recently scored above 90 percent at his latest physical fitness test.

Withers said that the things that make him “interesting” to some and no different to others might be same qualities: He’s an Airman who likes to enjoy life. His story is personal: He has managed to get back to being after some bad luck while putting on the same uniform as his wingmen.

By Eartheditor

Hello. I am a prior U.S. Navy sailor and photojournalist serving on active duty with the National Guard – combined, for more than 22 years. This blog features my more memorable stories and photos from that news pile as well as creative writing. All images and stories are by me unless otherwise credited. I hope to backlog more as well as write new stories. Thank you so much.
- Mike R. Smith

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