As we continue to honor service to country, we wanted to include a story from the families who live with a veteran hero. Today we share the words of Tara Plybon, a wife who is a caregiver for her wounded warrior husband, Todd, and a member of our Hearts of Valor program.
The wives of three men and I stood along with my son, Liam and watched the bus full of our husbands and their duffle bags departing the hotel and heading for Afghanistan. We all hugged, had tears in our eyes, and thought, “Well here goes a year of waiting.” That was February 2009.
On Oct. 15, 2009 I received a phone call that changed our lives forever. My husband, Todd, had been critically wounded with a moderate brain injury and a broken leg. The Humvee he was riding in ran over an IED. The only thing remaining of the vehicle was the back of it and the roof, which they pulled off my husband. Sadly, his friends, SSGT Christopher Staats and Sgt. Gabriel Green, who were riding in the front seats, were both killed instantly.
The next day, I found out Todd’s injuries were worse than I could imagine. He had bleeding in the brain, his right femur was blown apart in three places, he had two torn femoral arteries, his ribs were blown apart, he lost more blood and received more fresh units than most people hold in their bodies. It was pretty scary. He wasn’t expected to make it back to Texas and they couldn’t get us on a plane fast enough to see him.
Out of the eight men on the mission that day, 5 men came back. Two did not. The eighth man, my husband, has not totally returned home, either. His heart and mind are still back in Afghanistan. His mind is constantly thinking about that day and what could he have done differently as a gunner. When September and October come around, his nightmares increase, sleep becomes a premium more than usual. The dark cloud of survivor’s guilt lingers.
In spite of that, physically, I got my husband back. Why was I so lucky? How was I more deserving? In fact, the more I thought “Why me?” the less deserving I felt. Guilt was super heavy upon my chest. How and why did my husband survive losing all of that blood? Why did he return to me? Why him instead of Gabe and Chris? It has taken four years of counseling for me to graciously accept the gift of Todd’s life being continued. Each of the men willingly joined up to serve their countries and each of them were happy to put their lives on the line for their friends.
My heart hurts for the loss of these wonderful men. But I know that my husband and his friends went on their deployment knowing that at any moment, an RPG could come in and get one of them or they could run over an IED while in a vehicle, or any sort of combination of possible horror. What can we do now to honor them and their loss? We can celebrate our love and live the life Todd has left in the best way we can.
The day of the blast was our fifteen year wedding anniversary. I have been blessed with a man that loves me more than life itself. And he is raising a wonderful son. I have love.
Tara Plybon is an active member of our Hearts of Valor program. The program has more than 1,000 members . Through Hearts of Valor, Operation Homefront seeks to support these caregivers in their own journey of healing by facilitating an online community that provides social connections to other caregivers in similar situations, fostering support groups by geographic area to encourage resource sharing and friendships, and sponsoring annual retreats to provide education on relevant issues.
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 #11stories11days to share your own inspirational story of a veteran in your life.