LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --
Personnel from the Space and Missile Systems Center paid tribute to Katherine ‘Kat’ Portillo via Wounded Warrior Workout on Nov. 1 on the Turf Field, Los Angeles Air Force Base. Four years ago, Portillo was an active duty Air Force major and satellite operator stationed with Space and Missile Systems Center in El Segundo. In late December 2015, the vehicle that her family was riding hit an object on the 405 freeway and flipped and rolled over several times.
Portillo was instantly paralyzed from the shoulders down and her husband Pavel Ythjail broke his neck and skull.
“Kat was hanging upside down and giving us order to get help. Her military training kicked it and literally saved our lives,” said her husband. Portillo was medically discharged from the Air Force with honors in January 2018 but was two years shy of the 20-year mark of a full retirement to qualify for a full pension. While she has military benefits for the rest of her life the crucial nursing care she needs is not covered. The cost for the full time nursing care is staggering for the young couple. Doctors told the couple they were lucky to be alive, and after months of physical rehabilitation Ythjail has almost recovered but Portillo is a quadriplegic and requires 24 hour 7 days a week care.
With Wingman day just around the corner, Portillo was able to cheer for her fellow airman who participated in The Wounded Warrior Workout and her fellow airman got a chance to cheer on Portillo. This event is a fun way for the SMC community to give back to one of their own and to recognize the importance of what it means to be a good wingman. Military members participated in various workouts like a 5k run/walk, Air Force Personal Fitness Workshop/challenge, and The Chapman Memorial Body Armor Workout.
SMC Command Chief Master Sgt. Scott Meyers reminded the warriors of how Master Sgt. John Chapman sacrificed his own life to preserve the lives of his teammates during the Battle of Takur Ghar, Afghanistan.This event and workout was an opportunity for SMC warriors to support one of their own and to pay tribute to Master Sgt. Chapman. The Wounded Warrior Workout is just one way Portillo stays connected to her Air Force Family. Before the accident, she ran marathons, competed in 100-mile bike races, and sprint triathlons. Since the accident Portillo’s enthusiasm for life has not changed, she continues to mentor other military members and she has been an advocate for herself and other with disabilities.
Even though she’s only been discharged from the military for about nine months, Portillo is still as much a warrior today, as the first day of her military service. “Even if I no longer wear the uniform, the Air Force is still a part of my life,” Portillo said. As she continues on her journey, Portillo still relies on her military training. “I am grateful,” she says, “for the experiences, knowledge, and my extended Air Force family. I’ve gained so much through my time in the service.”