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Family Matters Blog - November 17, 2011 I was on a tour of the Warrior and Family Support Center in San Antonio when a woman caught my eye.
She was weaving a basket at a craft table as an instructor stood nearby, ready to give her a hand. Her hair was drawn back into a ponytail and she was comfortably dressed in sweats. She labored over her craft, oblivious to the people chatting and laughing noisily nearby.
She was so focused on her task that I felt bad interrupting her, but I was curious about what had brought her to the support center. I was in Texas to gather stories and was particularly interested in the center, a sprawling 12,500-square-foot facility that offers wounded warriors and their families a place to relax and reconnect. The center is just steps away from Brooke Army Medical Center, where many wounded warriors are medevaced to recover from combat injuries.
I tapped the woman on the shoulder and asked about her craft, which led to a conversation that lasted for more than an hour. She told me that she’s in San Antonio to care for her 19-year-old soldier son — a triple amputee.
Saralee Trimble’s son, Army Pfc. Kevin Trimble, was just four months into his deployment in Afghanistan when a fellow soldier standing 3 feet away stepped on a homemade bomb. The soldier was killed and Trimble lost both of his legs above the knee and his left arm above the elbow.
When she heard the news, Saralee left her home and her husband behind in New Orleans and rushed to San Antonio to care for Kevin. She’s been there since September and expects to stay for the next two years as he recovers. (Read more about her journey here.) He’ll be fitted for prosthetics and then undergo grueling rounds of physical therapy at the Center for the Intrepid, a state-of-the-art rehabilitation center for wounded warriors.
Her son’s goal, Saralee told me, is to graduate from the center on his 21st birthday, which is May 22, 2013.
I asked her if she plans to stay the full two years to care for her son. She seemed surprised at my question. I could tell the thought of leaving Kevin’s side never occurred to her.
“He’s my son,” she said, tears welling up.
I choked back tears at the emotion behind those simple words. As a mom myself, I understood her unwavering devotion. I, too, couldn’t imagine leaving my child’s side in a time of need.
We ended our conversation with a hug. I don’t often get emotional at interviews, but Saralee’s selfless love and devotion touched me. She had left family, friends and her home behind without a second thought to care for her son. And she balances this care with concern for her other four children – three of whom are in the military.
Saralee went back to her basket weaving and I went back to my tour. But I’ll never forget her.
Her son made an enormous sacrifice for his nation that he’ll carry with him for the rest of his life. And I can only hope that his visible wounds will stir appreciation and honor in everyone he meets.
But today, I’d like to express my appreciation for family caregivers like Saralee, who also will sacrifice for years to come as they care for their wounded military loved ones.
Of course, if you ask Saralee, she’ll deny that her caregiving time is a sacrifice. To her, it’s an act of love. “Caring for him … I couldn’t ask for anything more special,” she said.