Carol Bowis, Annie McChrystal, and Caregiver Jessica Allen.
Potomac “This country cares about you. We take pride in you and support you. You each have an inner strength which carries you through difficult times.” These words spoken by keynote speaker Annie McChrystal, wife of U.S. Army General (Ret) Stanley McChrystal, describe the emotion in the air at the second luncheon to honor caregivers of our injured servicemen and women.
Hosted by the Chevy Chase Women’s Republican Club (CCWRC) in partnership with The Yellow Fund (YRF), the event recognized and honored the courageous women who serve as caregivers of U.S. Military servicemen and women who are injured in the line of duty. These caregivers have not only had to relocate to this area, cope with difficult and very serious medical issues, advocate for their loved ones, forfeit their jobs — but have also had to maintain a sense of sanity and self-esteem through it all.
Each of the 14 caregivers who attended the luncheon had an inspirational story of challenges and triumphs. Jessica Allen of Nashville, Tenn. explained that her husband is a double amputee — but is thrilled that he could have his injured arm fused at a 93-degree angle in order to be able to use his computer. “When we finally get home, he will start a computer repair business.” Allen is a tax accountant and she and her husband have two daughters, 9 and 7.
Paulette Mason’s 35-year-old daughter Staff Sgt. Stefanie was injured in an accident in Kabul, Afghanistan. It was the young reservist’s third tour of duty when she suffered a traumatic brain injury and many other physical injuries. Because Mason had to move to Bethesda to care for her daughter, she was let go from her job as vice president of marketing for an accounting firm. Every day, she faces the challenges of living here while her husband remains in Newark, Del. with the rest of their family, helping her daughter through multiple surgeries, sorting through medical red-tape and dealing with the on-going financial issues. However, there have been some triumphs. As a part of her recovery, Stefanie has become a competitive swimmer. Last month, she captured two Gold medals and a Silver medal at the Warrior Games in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Many of the caregivers had heart-warming stories of their loved ones learning to walk again after losing both legs, making plans to return for college degrees, and reconnecting with their children after being apart for a year or more. One caregiver was so proud of her husband because “now that he has his prostheses, he once again stands six feet tall.” Another was excited because, “his legs are in the shop — and he will have them soon.”
Potomac’s Nancy Mattson has been a member of the CCWRC for many years. “I walk away from this luncheon feeling inspired by the attitude and courage of these women — they are truly amazing,” she said. “I wish every American could hear their meaningful stories.”
Ann Dickey, also of Potomac is moved by the bravery of the young women. “This luncheon is a wonderful way to recognize them. Too often they are in the background. They are a valuable part of recovery for our servicemen and women.”
The group was welcomed to the Kensington home and garden of Jayne Plank by Carol Bowis, “Caring for America” chair for the club. Marie Wood from the Yellow Ribbon Fund explained that the YRF is proud to support the caregivers of the injured servicemen by providing vouchers for rental cars and apartments, introducing them to mentors, volunteering for baby-sitting, providing information concerning the D.C. area, setting up massages and get-togethers for the caregivers and their families and much more. Twenty-three-year-old Emily Ball of Winston-Salem, N.C. said, “When my boyfriend, CPL Jessie Fletcher lost his legs in an IED attack, I did not know where to turn. The YRF helped me obtain a rental car, locate a place to live and get through the challenges of living here and finding my way through the maze of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda. I don’t know what I would have done without their support.” Eliza Palmer who grew up in Bethesda was also aided by YRF after her husband Aaron was injured. She attended last year’s luncheon as one of the caregivers, and now serves as director of the Family Caregiver Program for YRF. “I received so much help from YRF. I completely understand the issues which face the caregivers, since I am also a caregiver.”
McChrystal and her husband both serve on the board of the Yellow Ribbon Fund. Annie McChrystal said, “This is a wonderful agency that truly supports the families of our servicemen and women. Americans are weary of war, but we have made a real difference in Afghanistan — and much good has come out of our presence there for Afghanistan, particularly for the women.” She saluted the caretakers for their resilience, strength and caring.
The CCWRC gave each attendee a gift bag to share with their families and a Giant gift card. A drawing was also held for raffle prizes for the caregivers.
CCWRC is the largest Women’s Republican Club in Maryland. As a part of the Montgomery County Federation of Republican Women, they offer members the opportunity to support political candidates, volunteer in the community and participate in a variety of social, service and political events. For more information, view the website at http://www.mcfrw.org/CC/index.htm.