Kathreyn Phillips Harris with Glen and Lizzie
Kathreyn cared for her husband, Shilo, after he was horribly burned during an IED explosion in Iraq. Shilo is now the author of a book and no longer needs a caregiver. They are getting a divorce. Kathreyn and their children, Glen (age 6) and Lizzie (age 13), had to move out of the home that was built for their family. Kathreyn is a tough “Texas girl” who gets strength from her strong religious beliefs and the love of her two children.
Linzi, Micah and Jay Andersen
Micah stepped on an IED in Iraq and, as a result, lost both legs. Linzi cares full time for him and their two-year-old, Jay. They must live in San Antonio, as Micah continues to go through additional medical procedures at the military hospital there. It’s been especially difficult for Linzi who misses their families in Idaho and feels isolated in Texas. But she’s started running again (something she used to do with Micah), joining a community and creating friendships with other runners. Micah and Linzi are also pregnant with their their second child.
Ashley and Andy Toppin
Ashley is a fulltime caregiver for her husband, Andy, who suffered extensive burns and damage to his legs in December 2009 when his convoy was hit by an explosive device near Baghdad, Iraq. His injuries were so severe, the Army flew Ashley (who was pregnant at the time) and his parents to the military hospital in Germany so they could “say goodbye.” Andy beat the odds, but one of his legs had to be amputated and the other, while intact, makes it necessary for him to wear a special brace. The doctors didn’t think Andy would live to see his daughter, Addison, but he proved them wrong. They also have a son, Christian, and now Ashley is pregnant with their third child.
Carissa Tourtelot with Ellery
Carissa was full time caregiver to her husband, Ben, who fell from a helicopter during a training exercise and suffered severe brain injuries. She was pregnant with Ellery (who is now nine years old) at the time. Ben beat the odds and recovered, but his residual brain damage leaves him with permanent disabilities and challenges. After trying to maintain their marriage, Ben told Carissa he wanted to live on his own. Carissa was already working full time and volunteering in family readiness with Marine families, but she went to graduate school and earned a Masters degree in Military Social Work, specializing in trauma and working with wounded military members, veterans and their families. She now supervises the Recovery Care Coordination program for the Marine Corps’ Wounded Warrior Battalion West , located out of Camp Pendleton, CA.
Rebecca’s husband, Apache helicopter pilot Ian Morrison, took his own life in 2012. Ian was still active duty in the Army; he and Rebecca were living on the Fort Hood installation in Texas. Even though he knew it would end his pilot career, Ian sought help from the Army for PTSD. But he couldn’t get the medical support he needed. Rebecca was beyond devastated after Ian’s death. It took a long time and a great deal of courage to start working with other families who had lost their loved ones in war or in death by suicide. Rebecca now lives in the Washington, D.C. area where she’s studying for certification as an equine therapist. Her horse, “Ike,” who was a gift from Ian, is her inspiration.
Margarita’s “baby brother” Elias Reyes was a Marine Corporal whose battalion fought in some of the fiercest battles of the war in Afghanistan. More than 20 marines were lost in just one deployment—but more than that have lost their lives to suicide since coming home. Yet Elias was one of “the strong ones.” Margarita and her sisters were determined to help him reach his dreams and paid for Elias to attend UCLA. He lived with Margarita while in college and became a father figure to her pre-teen daughter, Jade. But Elias wasn’t able to get the counseling he needed after he graduated and moved to the San Francisco area to continue his studies. He lost his life to suicide. Margarita is, in her grief, propelled to lobby for better care of vets with PTSD. She is a leading activist for legislation and regulations that would speed up care for veterans with emotional wounds.