Johnson City Press
July 8, 2018
Soon, Susan also realized, they had to move. The family was living in Fort Bragg at the time, and there, military life was unescapable. They decided to look for another place to live and they heard about the Mountain Home Veterans Affairs Healthcare System.
“Once we came here it was like the Disney World of VAs,” said Susan. Susan says their lives look a lot different now.
Hannah SwayzeSusan Freeman became her husband Justin’s caregiver after he returned from war. He was severely injured after his truck was shattered by a 1,000-pound improvised explosive device, or IED, in 2009, though looking at him and talking to him today, you might not notice more than a limp.
This is a photo collage that Susan created to show their doctors and counselors to illustrate really what Jason has gone through. The first top left photo is Justin before the injuries and the other three surrounding it are the aftermath of the explosion. "I realized as I became justin's advocate and I became his voice that words simply won't describe what he had survived," said Susan.
Justin, a U.S. Army veteran, said it was the largest successfully detonated IED that had been used in Afghanistan at that point in the war.
The explosion left Justin severely injured. He suffered damage to his brain and spinal cord and various other places throughout his body. It wasn't until after he painfully finished out his deployment and returned to the United States that he and his family realized just how much damage had been done.
“When he walked off the plane I could see that he was just broken,” said Susan. “He was broken mentally and physically and spiritually broken.”
When Justin returned, he was put in rehabilitation, going to appointment after appointment. It wasn't long before Susan realized that he wasn't really getting better.
Justin was grieving the loss of his career in the Army and struggling both physically and mentally. His injuries were numerous: nerve damage in his shoulder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and more. His mental health plummeted.
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