Thursday, July 11, 2019

Wounded Warrior knew God had a bigger purpose for his life

Part 1 of an interview with
Carlos and Rosemarie Evans,
Authors of Standing Together

Sustaining a military marriage is hard work, especially when deployments keep a family separated for prolonged periods of time. The strain is intensified when the serving spouse is injured in the field. According to the PTSD Foundation of America, an estimated two out of three marriages fail for troops suffering from combat trauma. Carlos R. Evans and Rosemarie Evans are well aware of the difficulties, having experienced them personally. In Standing Together: The Inspirational Story of a Wounded Warrior and Enduring Love (Kregel Publications), they share their inspirational story of facing severe injury, rehabilitation, post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction. Theirs is a true story of hope and courage in the face of astonishing challenges.

Q: Carlos, first of all, thank you for your service to our country. Can you share a little bit about what led you to enlist and the eight years you served in the US Marine Corps?

Carlos: Many of my family members served in Vietnam, Korea, and Operation Desert Storm. After 9/11, I felt deeply in my heart that I had to do my part by serving my country, but I also wanted to continue to share the gospel. I was in Bible college at the time and wanted to join as a chaplain. In 2004, I was watching the news and saw Marines in Iraq. I admired what they were doing, and it was in that moment I felt a strong conviction to serve. I went to the recruiting center in Puerto Rico and joined the Marine Corps. That is a decision I will never regret, and I would do it all over again.

During my first four years of service, I did three combat deployments in Iraq. When I re-enlisted, I deployed to Afghanistan. It was during that deployment that I was severely injured. We saw two years of rehabilitation in the hospital, then I was medically retired.

Q: You were on your fourth deployment, this time to Afghanistan, when an incident changed life as you knew it. What happened on May 16, 2010?

Carlos:  I was a Sergeant in the Marine Corps, leading a mission in Helmand Province, when we were getting ready to go back to our operation center. I walked about eight steps when I heard an explosion. I had stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED). I felt pain in my body unlike anything I had ever felt or experienced before. My Marines and Navy Corpsman kept me alive. I lost so much blood that my medic had to put his thumb in my femoral artery to keep me alive. They asked me for my wife and daughters’ names and told me they were waiting for me back home. I was flown via medevac to the hospital in Afghanistan, and then to Germany. From Germany, I was transferred to Bethesda Naval Hospital in Washington, DC.

As a result of my injuries, I lost both of my legs above the knee and part of my left arm. I don’t remember what happened during those first few days because I was intubated and sedated.

Back home in Puerto Rico, Rosemarie and my mother received visits from Marines bringing updates about my situation. The same night I arrived at Bethesda, my wife and parents got to the hospital and waited to take care of me. To this day, I continue to meet people that took care of me in Germany and Afghanistan.

That day has become the best day of my life, and today we celebrate it as our “Alive Day.”

Q: Were deployments a source of fear in any way? Did you think about how something might happen to you during a deployment?

Carlos: During that deployment and the three previous ones, I don’t think I ever considered that anything was going to happen to me. I personally knew others who had died and some who were badly wounded, but as a Christian, I figured God was with me and would protect me from every kind of harm. On my various furloughs, I said to friends and family members, “I’m not going to die in Iraq or Afghanistan. God has a bigger purpose for my life.”

But I also remember the day when all my family members and friends came to say goodbye. I made jokes such as, “Something is going to happen to me because this is the first time in all my deploys that everyone came here to celebrate.” Also, before deployment, I forced my wife to watch the movie Taking Chances. In the movie, Kevin Bacon is an officer that went to a house and notified the family member about their loss. I told Rosemarie that if something happened to me in Afghanistan, the Marines would come to the front door to let her know I died in combat.

Q: Rosemarie, you write about a call that you received on May 15 from Carlos that left you unsettled and worried. Can you tell us more about that day and the days that followed? How long did you have to live in uncertainty about Carlos’ condition?

Rosemarie: That Saturday night I was at my uncle’s wedding. On my way back home, I received Carlos’s call. I was happy to hear from him because he couldn’t call often. But when I answered the phone, I noticed something wasn’t right. Carlos was responding flat and sometimes he was quiet. He told me, “Things here are not the same as in Iraq. You know that I love you, and I love my daughters.”

When he said those words, I knew he was worried and that they were in some danger. We lost phone connection that night, and I didn’t have the chance to speak to him again. Sunday passed, and I didn’t hear from him. On Monday afternoon, I received a call from the Marine Corps to let me know they would meet me at Carlos’ mother’s house. That’s when they told me Carlos was injured, but they didn’t have all the details. From that Monday until Friday, I waited each day for them to come to the house to deliver updated information about his condition.

Q: You were an experienced nurse and had training in trauma life support, but were you truly prepared to care for Carlos when he arrived home? How did you manage taking care of Carlos and your two young daughters?

Rosemarie: As a nurse, I had the knowledge of what should I expect to see when I met Carlos at the hospital. An intubated patient connected to a mechanical ventilator with drainages and monitors. However, at that point I had a different role. I was the wife of an injured husband. Being a nurse helped me understand procedures and prognosis, but I felt the same uncertainty, desperation, sadness and helplessness any other family member feels when a love one is going through a difficult time. I wasn’t completely prepared because it was an unexpected situation. Before leaving to go to Afghanistan, Carlos and I talked about what should I expect if I saw the Marines at the front door (that he had died in combat), but we never talked about him coming back home seriously injured. We didn’t expect that and weren’t aware of how many service members were injured in the war. When I stepped into Bethesda Hospital, it was eye opening to see how many wounded service members came back and how many families were affected.

When I first went to Bethesda, I traveled without my daughters in order to focus on my husband. Our daughters were four years old and five months old at the time. My mom took care of them in Puerto Rico at first, but as the weeks passed by, I was desperate to see my daughters. I felt conflicted between my two roles as a wife and a mom. I asked two friends in North Carolina (where we were stationed) to take care of my daughters there. That way they could bring my daughters to the hospital, or I could travel from Washington, D.C. to North Carolina to see them. When the doctor told me the recovery process could take two years, we started to make plans for how we could all be together. There were four women who were the key to finding us a place to stay and be able to travel daily to the hospital for treatments. We had to start early, at 5:30 in the morning, to have our older daughter ready for school, the younger for childcare, and Carlos ready for treatments. We started new routines, but we also had family members that stayed with us and helped. However, we wanted to learn how to do it as a family of four. It was hard sometimes, but God helped us through.


Q: How was your faith tested in the months that followed?

Carlos: My faith was tested by trying to understand where God was in the middle of my pain. Where was God when I stepped on the IED? I was continuously asking God, “Why me?” Sometimes people would tell me that maybe God was punishing me. Others would pray with me for a miracle—that my legs or my left hand would grow. Sometimes I prayed I could forget May 17, 2010. Seeing my wife and the people I love suffering, and not being able to do anything about it, tested my faith.

Job 23:10 (NIV) says, “But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.”

Q: Please share what has become your motto.

Carlos: One day I was trying to put on my prosthetic hand and legs. I was struggling and getting frustrated. I wanted to look like I used to. I believe the Holy Spirit touched my heart, and I received this message: “I am touching more people with one hand then when I had two. Today, I am leaving more footprints than when I had feet because all you need to touch someone is heart.”

Q: Where can people learn more about Touching Lives Leaving Footprints and C.R. Evans Ministries?





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