Warrior Life

When Aaron and I arrived at Fort Drum in September 2010, I was pretty upset to be there. It was already cold and our drive in happened at night, down a road full of run-down looking buildings and few food options. Eventually, we found an apartment off-post, adopted a few dogs, and got into the swing of deployment training. Of course, he was gone a lot so I began to volunteer at the USO and focus on Scooter the beagle and Charlie Buckles, the brown terrier mix-breed. I had a few good battle buddies and we held our breaths as the unit left at the end of March 2011 for a year in Afghanistan. I went back to Alabama for about two months and returned in July to get ready to start college full-time and continue my volunteerism at the USO. For a few months, everything was deployment-normal: wine with battle buddies, walks and training with the dogs, hours at the USO, and school.

The day before Aaron was injured we talked for hours. We actually got into a little fight, and then we made each other laugh for a long time. I woke up on September 7, 2011 to two emails and a facebook message. He told me all the sweet things a caring husband would while deployed and the wife is having a rough time. I had just sat down with my cereal to email him back and start on some schoolwork when there was a knock on my door.

Yes, a knock. It's not Army standard to send out humans to tell you that your husband is injured, but EOD is small and someone somewhere decided to try and do the decent thing by letting me know to my face, instead of waiting on a Big Army phone call. It took five full minutes to get the dogs under control and pull up two chairs for the men in ACUs. I had answered my door and thought these guys were lost or looking for someone; but one said my name and asked to come in. I knew. I also knew Aaron wasn't dead because I had familiarized myself with proper KIA notification procedures (although even those get screwed up), but I knew it was bad.

The next few hours are total blur. I was not told Aaron had lost his legs, but simply that he was hurt, had had surgery, and that "it looked bad for his legs." I asked the two strange men to help me tell his family. I called the youngest brother, who conferenced called Aaron's dad. I got the other brother on the phone. I called my mom. Aaron's mom was retrieved from her work. Two friends came over to my place, then a few more. I told my neighbor. My friend, who was also the FRG leader, asked me if I wanted to read the email that would go out to everyone on the FRG list. By the grace of God I said no. I know who wrote this email; I know he never called me; and he knows that I know he was negligent in discussing my husband's very life and who should know what. One person made decisions that affected everyone negatively.

The entire email list found out Aaron had lost his legs before I did. "SFC Aaron Causey suffered bilateral amputations while performing dismounted operations today." I never would have used those words at that point in the process, but I wasn't consulted by the email author, a commander of a different unit. Somehow, it had gotten by my friends who knew that I didn't- I think it was the words I was using and maybe they thought I just couldn't bring myself to say it. Fortunately, Aaron's commander called his wife and asked to speak to me. He thought I knew, and quickly told me the worst news of my life and of his deployment so far. Everyone was upset. I am still not sure why the people who notified me did not tell me Aaron lost his legs, or why the person who wrote the email didn't think to call me first, but I don't think about those things and people anymore. I had wonderful people in my apartment at that very moment, my family had support all around them, and I knew that by the following morning my sister-in-law and mother would be with me. I stopped being angry awhile ago about all the things that went wrong and instead choose to only recall the things that went right. I tell a little of this story here so that any other military family can hopefully learn from my experience and better prepare themselves should something horrible go wrong.

Five days later, on the 10th anniversary of 9/11/01, I left for Germany, waving goodbye to my mom and SIL. I had managed to see my friends a few times, have some good dinners, and set my dogs up with a place to go until I figured something else out. I met my in-laws in Germany the next day, we saw Aaron, and left on September 13th for Bethesda. I flew back with Aaron on a C-17. And even though he was unconscious, I talked to him the whole flight. Shortly before we left Germany, I received the terrible news that one of my best friends had died in a car accident. I was a complete wreck, but was so grateful to be next to Aaron for the rest of his journey. We arrived at the hospital in the afternoon and were greeted by both brothers, their wives, and other dear family members. For the first week there were 10 people for the doctors to talk to, and I didn't mind having all the support.

Aaron was in-patient for two months and has been back twice. He has had 50 surgeries (or so). He lost both of his legs above the knees, two fingers, has damaged hands, sustained more serious damage to his arms, serious scarring all around his abdomen and backside, suffered through skin grafts, and lost a testicle. He has a moderate TBI. We lived in "Building 62" at the hospital for a year after his in-patient stay, until November 2012. Building 62 is a barracks full of two-bedroom apartments for wounded warriors and their caregivers. It is essential in recovery and since it is on the Bethesda campus, makes accessibility a breeze. However, we realized that we needed to begin building a life for ourselves so we moved out to a neighboring town  to start an "us" life as opposed to a "him" life. Other than retirement in November, we have no idea what 2013 looks like, or what 2014 brings us. I hope to continue in school although that has been a massive struggle, and Aaron will need to figure out where he wants to work and where we will live. I desperately wanted Charlie Buckles back, but it's been so long that I am not sure it's fair to him. We've lost more than I ever could have known we would, but we also know that we're incredibly fortunate, as well.

The road is long, full of bends and hills, and unreliable. Aaron nearly died and we lost total control of our lives. We aren't sure if and when kids will appear, where we will settle in the DC-metro area, or what work we will find. We can only guess, but each day we wake up next to each other is a gift and all we need to succeed. We are lucky and blessed to have each other and our support systems, and know that as long as we stick together and laugh everyday, everything else will fall into place. So join in on the fun and follow our new journey!


  1. Hi there! I had a question for you about possibly collaborating on something and was hoping you could email me back to discuss? Thanks so much!

    - Emma

    emmabanks9 (at) gmail (dot) com

  2. Hi! I just got done checking out your site and loved it! The story of you is very interesting and I'm sorry to hear about what had happened to Aaron. As you mentioned, the road is long and I do wish you two the very best. Being that you are a military wife, I had a quick question and was hoping you could email me back when you get the chance. Thanks!