In our continuing series to Honor Veterans, today’s story highlights the tenacity and resiliency of our veterans. The Staelens family shows that it’s possible to endure life-changing trauma and put your life back together, with a little help from friends.
Within months, however, the military police officer was back on the front lines, this time in Iraq with a combat support team.
As trying as his tour in Afghanistan was, Iraq would prove to be near deadly.
Joshua was traveling in a convoy when a roadside bomb exploded next to his vehicle. Both he and his squad leader were peppered with shrapnel. In addition, Joshua suffered a concussion, TBI and resulting PTSD.
Now, Joshua lives with constant pain in his leg from the shrapnel embedded in his flesh. Doctors are afraid to remove the metal bits for fear the surgery would do more damage.
In 2007, he was medically discharged and sent on his way with no retirement pay and limited veterans’ benefits. The Army and the VA could not agree on the disability percentage rating he should receive.
Joshua suffered from the aftermath of war by dealing with PTSD, sleep apnea and other ailments. He tried to work but many police departments would not hire him to join their force, in spite of his military police training.
The family of four was left scraping by on whatever part-time work he could find. Operation Homefront gave the family a home in our Village in Bethesda, MD where they could live rent-free while Joshua put his career and life back together.
“It was a Godsend,” Joshua said. “If we weren’t here, we probably would have been living out of our car.”
Despite the family’s dire situation, Joshua said he would not change a day of his service.
“I’m learning to cope and I’ll probably never get rid of my PTSD, but I volunteered to do this for my country and I would do it again if I was asked to,” he said.
The Staelens family relocated to Maryland. Josh started working with Radio Shack as a sales associate. Within months, Josh became the Manager. He now manages one of the largest RadioShack stores in the country. He is also responsible for other RadioShack stores, which is a job he created. The family moved to a rented house and they are doing great. Josh is working toward a promotion as District Manager.
Join in the conversation with us as we celebrate those veterans among us, by sharing stories of your own. Through Facebook or Twitter, please use the hashtag #11days11stories to share your own inspirational story of a veteran in your life.