5 Questions for Caregiver Jessica: “I am happy to be his caregiver, because that means he’s still here”

What specific surgeries and/or treatments has Charles received for his injuries?

There’s an extensive list. Just know there have been surgeries, blood transfusions, procedures, flesh-eating bacteria and a ton of fun for us. When I first heard that he had lost both legs, I was at home working on a tax return; I received the call that Saturday morning at 8. At first he wasn’t going to make it, so I was devastated. Once they called back and said he was stable, all was right with my world.

Being a caregiver, it’s important for you to take care of yourself, too. What do you do to keep your energy up and to recharge?

What is your spouse’s name?
Charles (Chaz)
How long have you been married?
16 years
When did he enlist?
June 1998
What was his rank/unit?
E6-Staff Sergeant 1st Squadron, 75th Cavalry Regiment, with the 101st Airborne Division
What was his deployment history?
August 2000-February 2001 (Kosovo)
September 2005- September 2006 (Iraq)
July 2010-injury (Afghanistan)
How was he injured?
He stepped on a 40-pound IED in the Zhari district of Afghanistan on January 22, 2011.
What specific support did the Semper Fi Fund provide? 
They provided Chaz with his awesome Action Trackchair and they provided some financial support for the home we built for Chaz.

I get up between 5:00 and 5:30 a.m. every day so I can get something done before I shift into caregiver/mom all day. I have to make sure he has all of his bathing needs, cook his meals, take his meals and drinks where they need to go. I basically multitask all day long. But as far as taking care of myself? I read a lot. I read everything. If you give me a book, I will read it at some point. If you recommend a book to me, I will add it to my list. I have a Kindle that stays in my purse. I have a book on my phone. I have at least 2-3 books on my nightstand. I am always reading a nonfiction and fiction book. Last year I read more than 70 books. I love falling into another world for a while. My husband supports my habit because I keep very few books around; I usually pass them off as fast as I read them. I love sharing my love of books with others. I also love going to musicals. I’m a big theater junkie, and I’m dying to see Hamilton. Luckily there are several musicals coming to Nashville that will help me pass the time until I can see Hamilton.

As a participant in several Semper Fi Fund caregiver retreats, can you explain why these retreats are beneficial?

The retreats can be beneficial if the caregiver needs respite and resources. The retreats can provide both. As for me, I am a helper. So the retreats were beneficial for me because I was able to share my knowledge with others and help them understand part of our crazy caregiver world.

What has your experience as a caregiver taught you about life, and about people, that the rest of us probably don’t know?

Most of the people we meet think we are poor, pitiful victims. It’s almost like we have to fit into this idea they have. I have a very strong personality. I have been through a lot. I have no pity for myself. Chaz signed up for the Army. He volunteered. I volunteered to marry him. We agreed to reenlist in the Army. We knew what could happen. My life could be worse, I could already be a widow. Instead, I am a caregiver. I am happy to be his caregiver, because that means he’s still here.

What else do people need to know about you and your story?

Being someone’s caregiver is vitally important, but it is also important to find yourself. It is too easy to melt into this role and lose your identity. I see it happening all the time. When Chaz was hurt, I thought I had to give up my dreams, but he wouldn’t let me. It was hard, but I kept my company going. He has been my number-one cheerleader. This past summer he looked at me and said it was time to get my dream out there. I’m an Accredited Financial Counselor. I won a fellowship to get my license right before Chaz was wounded. I started my company in 2008, I passed the IRS exam in 2012 then the AFC exams in 2012 and 2013. I currently have more than 130 clients. If Chaz had not been hurt, I would still be an Army wife traveling everywhere. If groups like Semper Fi Fund and America’s Fund hadn’t stepped in and helped us with our home, I wouldn’t have been able to pay off our mortgage as fast as I did. Because we were debt-free, we were able to buy a commercial property. Because we bought that property, I’m opening my office. The word “excited” is an understatement, and as Chaz says, “finally the sugar mama plan has begun!”