Tacoma, WASH. – Army Spc. Isaac Strausbaugh never thought he would become a disabled veteran.
But after a training accident earlier this year left the 23-year-old soldier’s right knee severely damaged and forced him to get a half-knee replacement, Isaac suddenly found himself disabled and at the end of an abridged military career.
“It’s unbelievable … that I’m a statistic and I’m [going to be] a disabled veteran only from a training exercise," Isaac said. "It’s just hard to accept.”
In the months since his accident, Isaac, an extremely independent and active man, has had to re-learn how he does just about everything – including walking – with his new knee. Isaac’s wife, Jillian Strausbaugh, a pre-school teacher, has also had to learn how to take on new household tasks and responsibilities as Isaac’s primary caretaker.
“It was pretty hard in the beginning with me working full-time and having to come home every day and take care of him,” Jillian said. “So, I mean, it’s gotten easier because we’ve gotten into routines.”
In addition to re-learning how to live day-to-day life, the Strausbaughs have also had to rapidly prepare to transition out of the military community they’ve lived in for five years. Before getting injured, Isaac had hoped to serve at least a few more years before joining the Army Reserve or National Guard and starting civilian life.
“[My accident] was such a game changer because I was still thinking about [my future civilian life before] I was going through [recovery], like, what do I want to do [once I’m out],” Issac said. “So I have to re-orientate what I do for a living.”
Isaac, who is also studying toward an Associate’s Degree in business administration at American Military University, admits that looking for a new house and job while still dealing with the stress of his injuries is an extremely daunting task.
“It’s pretty much starting all over again. New jobs. New home,” Strausbaugh said. “Its very nerve-wracking.”
To help ease the stress of the transition process as they learn to adapt to life with Isaac’s injuries, the Strausbaughs decided to attend the USO Caregivers Seminar in Tacoma Washington to learn more about caregiving, life with and as a wounded warrior and the many resources available to their family as they transition to life outside of the military.
“This totally was not what I expected at all … I’m not bored and I’m actually writing down things that I think [are] important,” Jillian said.
“We’re connected with one another. We’re having a good time, that’s the best way to learn,” Isaac said.
At their day at the USO Caregivers Seminar, the Strausbaughs attended workshops and presentations designed to address the immediate needs of caregivers of wounded, ill and injured service members. During one of the sessions about communication, held by gameonNation, Isaac even went on stage to play one of the interactive games.
“It was off the wall, improv. It was a lot of fun,” Isaac said.
By the end of the day, the Stausbaughs agreed that attending the USO Caregivers Seminar was a great decsion.
“My takeaway would be to be able to support him better and to be more understanding and the for us to not be so stressed out about the whole transition process,” Jillian said.