By Sandi Moynihan
TACOMA, Washington–It’s been a shock.
A training accident earlier this year severely damaged 23-year-old Army Spc. Isaac Strausbaugh’s right knee, forcing him to get a partial replacement and putting him on the road to an unexpected medical retirement.
“It’s unbelievable … that I’m a statistic and I’m [going to be] a disabled veteran only from a training exercise,” he said. “It’s just hard to accept.”
In the months since his accident, Isaac, who describes himself as an independent and active man, has relearned how he does just about everything physically – all the way back to walking – with his new knee. Isaac’s wife, Jillian Strausbaugh – a preschool teacher – has taken 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,” she said.
The Strausbaughs are also rapidly preparing to transition out of the military community they’ve lived in for five years. Before being injured, Isaac – who is studying for an associate’s degree in business at American Military University – had hoped to serve at least a few more years before moving over to the Army Reserve or National Guard while starting civilian life.
“[My accident] was such a game changer,” he said. “I have to re-orientate what I do for a living.
"It’s pretty much starting all over again. New jobs. New home. Its very nerve-wracking.”
The injury and subsequent transition planning led them to attend the USO Caregivers Seminar in Tacoma, Washington. But instead of being inundated with PowerPoint slides, the Strausbaughs picked up caregiving and transition tips and even had a little fun along the way.
“This totally was not what I expected at all,” Jillian said. “I’m not bored and I’m actually writing down things that I think [are] important.”
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“We’re connected with one another,” Isaac said. “We’re having a good time. That’s the best way to learn.
USO Caregivers Seminars are designed to address the immediate and long-term needs of caregivers of wounded, ill and injured service members. And they’re supposed to release some tension, too. Isaac was even called up on stage during one of the sessions about communication, led by gameonNation.
"It was off-the-wall improv,” he said. “It was a lot of fun.”
The Stausbaughs left feeling good about the seminar, and even took away some after-action points.
“My takeaway would be to be able to support him better and to be more understanding and for us to not be so stressed out about the whole transition process,” Jillian said.
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