Army Spec. Richard New broke his leg in three places during basic training. After six months of therapy, he was back to running and ready to move on with his military career. He thought he had the worst of the injury behind him.
He was wrong.
Just a few months later, during hand-to-hand combat training, Richard suffered several deep scratches and developed a staph infection. He was hospitalized. Doctors told his wife, Susan, that his life was in jeopardy. They operated and removed some of the tissue from his arm and drained much of the swollen limb. Richard was out of mortal danger, but his body would never be the same.
The infection caused nerve damage in his arm. Susan said even the most gentle breeze against his skin caused Richard to fall to the ground in pain. The family was moved to Fort Meade where Richard started a new job and began treatments at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
During a procedure to inject painkillers into his spine, Susan said something went very wrong. The injection caused nerve damage to his back. Again, Richard returned to duty, but every day he battled extreme pain.
In March of 2009, Richard tripped outside his home and fell on his already injured arm. The fall paralyzed the limb. He could no longer do his job or anything else with his right arm.
Now, away from his job, and in excruciating pain, Richard began displaying symptoms of severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Doctors admitted him for several weeks to treat him for the condition.
With each new injury, life for the New family became increasingly stressful. When Richard was moved to Maryland, Susan was eight months pregnant and had to leave her job. Once it was obvious he would have to leave the military, the pair moved into an RV park with their now 2-year-old daughter, Zoe, to save money. Their trailer was only 22 feet long.
The family thought the living situation would be temporary. Six months passed as they prepared for life outside the military. They realized they did not have enough money to move into an apartment. And to make matters worse, the chill in the trailer caused Richard’s arm to throb with pain. They wondered if there was any chance of getting ahead.
With relief, they have found there is hope.
Recently, this struggling family received some good news. Operation Homefront has given the family a home out of the cold at the new Operation Homefront Village in Bethesda, MD. It’s a comfortable place they can call home and live for free as they prepare for life after the military.
When they move in on Dec. 23, there will be a Christmas tree waiting in their new living room. It will be the first tree little Zoe has ever had. Now, there will be plenty of room for her to play and Richard will have a place to heal that is warm. “We are beyond thrilled,” Susan said. “It’s going to be a magical Christmas for us.