Taking the Worst and Making it the BEST
Wounded Warrior Couple Get and Give Hope with the Help of the Transition Training Academy
eanine had no interest in dating when her roommate introduced her to their friend Army Sergeant Joseph Coward. The two started as pen pals and then began to date just before Joe deployed to Afghanistan with the 82 Airborne out of Ft. Bragg. It was 2008 and Jeanine couldn’t have known that one day Joe would suffer life-altering combat injuries that would change everything. For years Joe had tried to join the Army and once that happened, his positive attitude and desire to serve made his progression rapid. “Joe absolutely loved the Army,” said Jeanine. “He couldn’t imagine any other place he wanted to be.” During his deployment their relationship grew serious and although they were half a world away from each other they were inseparable. Then, less than a month before the end of his deployment, Joe was injured in another series of mortar attacks, sustaining serious injury to his spine as well as a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Joe also returned with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), silently worrying that his Army career may be over. Despite his injuries, Jeanine and Joe were married. “The injuries didn’t matter,” said Jeanine. “We both knew we loved each other. I knew what I was getting into.” Jeanine gave up her successful career as a finance director to become Joe’s caregiver. The effects of his TBI and two back surgeries made it impossible to continue his Army career. The frustration of being dependent on Jeanine and not providing for his family made his PTSD worse. The couple seemed to be losing everything. Knowing he was at the end of his rope, Joe sought the support of his command. He was literally ordered to get involved with various veterans’ service organizations at the Warrior Transition Unit, including Wounded Warrior Project (WWP). Jeanine remembers it was only days later when they both learned about WWP’s Transition Training Academy
April 2014 / HOMELAND
“When Joe was hurt he lost his dream and had no idea where to go. After he started TTA, I remember actually seeing him smile again,” said Jeanine. “I think TTA may have saved his life. He has hope again.” (TTA), a hands-on program that helps warriors and caregivers explore the information-technology (IT) field as a possible career choice. TTA instruction is a high-touch blended learning program where instructors engage personally with each student with “learn-by-doing” teaching techniques. TTA curriculum was written especially for warriors who suffer from TBIs and PTSD. All TTA courses and class materials are provided free of charge.
Joe and Jeanine signed up for TTA and before long realized they each had a knack for IT. “Because the program was developed around TBIs and PTSD Joe was able to learn. Many programs take learning down to grade school levels that feels demeaning to warriors,” said Jeanine. “TTA not only teaches IT, it helped Joe’s brain relearn some basics. It’s education and TBI therapy rolled into one.” “When Joe was hurt he lost his dream and had no idea where to go. After he started TTA, I remember actually seeing him smile again,” said Jeanine. “I think TTA may have saved his life. He has hope again.” Things have come full circle for Jeanine. Upon completion of the program she became a TTA instructor and her perspective gives her a greater level of understanding. The first day of each session she shares her and Joe’s story. Warriors trust her because she understands each challenge they face. Jeanine loves giving warriors the tools and support they need to move into a positive direction. “At first, me getting hurt was the worst thing I though could ever happen, but now I realize it was the best,” said Joe. “Without having gone through this we wouldn’t have the chance to help other people. I went from being totally checked out, disheartened and on the verge of giving up to now embracing, appreciating and helping other people.” There are two success stories in their home. Joe is in the final interview stages for several IT positions. Joe and Jeanine will celebrate their six-year anniversary on April 14, 2014. Wounded Warrior Project’s® Transition Training Academy™ operates at 10 military facility locations throughout the country, including the Naval Medical Center (Balboa) San Diego (NMCSD). For additional information visit the TTA information link on the WWP website.