During February, we invite you to "Share Your Love" with the Fund! Marine Justin Constantine recently shared with us the sacrifice made by his caregiver, Dahlia...who has since become his wife! Read about their heartwarming love story below:
To say that Dahlia was my Caregiver would be the understatement of the year. After I was injured, Dahlia was my confidante, the person always next to me, my rock, my inspiration, my nurse and the one truly keeping an eye on my recovery. And to really understand her sacrifice throughout all of this, you need to be aware of our back story.
Back in 2006 when I was shot, Dahlia and I were not married. In fact, we did not get married until 2008. We had met earlier in 2006 at a Spanish immersion course in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Dahlia was there from California, and I came from Virginia. We were in the same small class, and although I was only there for 3 weeks, we really hit it off during that short time. We dated that summer back in the States, and then when I deployed to Iraq, Dahlia left to pursue her PhD at Cambridge University in England. Contrary to previous wars though, we were still able to communicate with email, and letters and packages and the occasional satellite phone call.
When I was initially airlifted out of Iraq, they took me to the military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany. Although it was pretty unusual for the service members there to get personal visits, Dahlia was able to get there from England. I was there for four days, and when they sent me on to Bethesda, Dahlia decided to “temporarily” drop out of her doctorate program to be with me in the hospital (because of the severity of my injuries Dahlia was not able to return to Cambridge, but we plan on going there together in 5 years to resume studies). Never mind that studying at Cambridge was a lifelong dream of hers, or that she didn’t know anyone in Maryland or Virginia, or that at that point the doctors didn’t even know if I would survive. When I awoke from my coma, Dahlia was there and has been at my side every day since then.
The doctors had taken bones from my legs to use in reconstructing my jaws, and as my legs recovered, we walked very slowly around the hospital; we progressed from my first walk just from the bed to the bathroom door, and then later to the nurses’ station, and then to a whole lap around that particular wing. But I also remember walking Dahlia to our car at night when it was time for her to go (oftentimes hours after visiting hours were officially over), and then going back to my room and bed, now so lonely without Dahlia. Even though I knew she needed to go home to get some sleep and good food, I always wished she could stay in my room (which she actually did sometimes even though that meant she slept in a chair or wedged into my tiny bed).
Dahlia and I are now closer than either of us could have possibly imagined, and although she has seen me at my absolute worst, we are all the better because of it. We know that together we are strong enough to handle anything life throws at us, and try to take full advantage of what life has to offer. We both work hard, and make spending time together a true priority. We almost lost each other once, and neither of us will ever forget what that felt like. I can only hope now to take care of Dahlia as well as she took care of me (and continues to do still today!). Simply said, I would not have had this successful recovery without Dahlia.
Thank you Justin for sharing with us how much Dahlia means to you! Your letter reminds us of how important caregivers are in the recovery process of our Heroes.
Please tell us about someone who has been there for you. Go to the "Share your Love" tab on our Facebook page to post your story or comments!