Karen had everything she had ever wanted in life. She had a husband, two young children, a house, a dog. She loved her role in the Army wife community.

Her soldier husband had safely returned home from service in Kuwait. They could finally be a family. The white picket fence was within sight.

At least that’s what she thought.

What Was Lost

Karen’s husband, like so many, too many, had returned in body, but not in spirit. His service had changed him and not for the better. For the next six-plus years he would continue to do battle with PTSD.

The Army was ill-equipped to aid in his fight. They prescribed over fifteen medications to combat the demons, but all it did was turn him into a shell of his former self.

Karen couldn’t bare for her children to see their father as this hollow being and his aggressive outbursts made for an unstable home. She felt she had no choice, but to move herself and her babies from California back home to Minnesota.

“The man I knew he was and the father I knew he could be was gone.”

The couple would regularly speak by phone. Some conversations would give her more hope than others. He got into a 90-day treatment center that sounded promising, but he was removed from the program due to budget cuts. She urged him to fight for what he needed because in his own words he would die without help.

Four days later he overdosed on those prescription meds he was ordered to take.

Karen lost everything that day. She lost her beloved husband, the father of her children, her Army wife identity, and her future. Previously lost was her faith in our military.

So much pain lives on in the shadow of service. kids at grave

What Was Found

In the four years since her husband died new things have come to life. Karen discovered parts of herself she didn’t know existed.

Emerging from this loss and the guilt that followed has not been easy. She can see now with certainty that God placed her where she needed to be. Shortly after her husband died she moved to an unfamiliar neighborhood in search of a fresh start and found a new best friend. This friend met Karen at a low point and stood by her, while old friends struggled with what to say and missed the bubbly old Karen.

This new Karen was a fighter. The military declared her husband’s death as misconduct. Determined to force the Army to take some ownership of their neglect in her husband’s care she fought for two years to change that declaration. Two years of barely getting by both emotionally and financially. In that time she learned more about military protocol and politics than she ever wanted to, but she didn’t stop until the facts were acknowledged. Now she was the one fighting for what she needed.

Karen knows now she is stronger than she ever imagined she could be. She has righted wrongs and strives every day to be the best mother she can be.

She didn’t get here alone. In the darkness of those first months, she struggled mightily and thought about giving up. She had her children’s’ bags packed and was ready to turn them over to her brother and sister-in-law thinking they’d be better off with someone else’s care.

That’s the day she got a visit from Tribute To The Troops. A biker group that pays visits to the families of fallen soldiers. It was during that visit when one of the group members reassured Karen that she didn’t have to do this alone any longer. A switch flipped with the powerful realization that she wasn’t in this alone.

Through this group, she found an unbeatable support system. A new family of sorts. Her children have been given amazing opportunities to experience things that bring them joy as well as their own community of friends who have lost parents as well. Now she goes on those Tribute rides with the goal of bringing hope to someone who needs it as much as she did.

Through all of this, Karen found herself and with a faith that has grown tenfold she boldly faces the future. So much lost and so much gained.