Three years ago I was a corporate business woman until I received the phone call on April 10 and told my husband was wounded on foreign soil..
Saturday January 25, 2014 I was asked to be guest speaker at the Kansas Days celebration in Lawrence, KS. Please feel free to read the words I shared with complete strangers that evening.
"Thank you for allowing me to join you this evening and share part of my life.
Three years ago, if someone told me I would be standing in front of you today, I would not have believed them. Three years ago, I was a corporate business woman going over profit & loss statements, gross & net margins, working 60-70 hours per week. Three years ago, I was a mother to two daughters going to gymnastics and coping with the fact my oldest daughter was a teenager. Three years ago, I was living the America Dream with my loving family.
Life can change in a moment’s notice; and so I found out as a military spouse turned wounded warrior spouse on "On April 10, 2011 as I was driving to my office, my phone rang with an unfamiliar number. Thinking it was my husband Jamie who had deployed to Afghanistan two months prior, I answered the phone quickly, but the voice on the other end didn’t sound anything like my husband. The voice was cold and direct as he asked to speak with Melissa Jarboe. My body grew weak as the voice introduced himself as a soldier from 1st Infantry division, Fort Riley, KS.
“Ma’am, I’m going to read this script verbatim. I do not have any answers to your questions. On the 10th day of April 2011 4th cavalry/ 4th regiment Able troop was on patrol in the Zhari District of Afghanistan when Able troop took enemy fire. SGT Jamie Darrell Jarboe was wounded by enemy fire as a casualty. My name is John Doe (name changed for privacy). Please write down this number for further information.”
Days later I would be told my husband was shot by a snipers bullet in the Zhari District of Afghanistan. The 7.62 bullet from an AK-47 rifle penetrated my husband's spine, leaving him a quadriplegic and paralyzed from the chest down, he never gave up the fight on the battlefield nor did I as his wife, once he returned to American soil. Jamie & I spent the next 11 months inside 7 different hospitals, Jamie not being able to walk, talk, breathe or eat and enduring over 100 surgeries and surgical procedures trying to heal what the sniper so viscously tore apart physically to my husband and emotionally to our family. Our family spend the entire summer inside an ICU room that was 8 foot by 10 foot. For Halloween, my girls went trick or treating at the Nurses stations, for Thanksgiving we ate leftovers from another family and on Christmas eve, we slept on the floor next to my husbands hospital bed so we could wake up together on Christmas.
Each day we would wake up praying that we were one day closer to going home and living the life we took for granted for so many years. What we wouldn't give to go out to dinner at our favorite local restaurant and get the wrong meal. We missed being cut off in traffic, we missed walking to our mail box and getting junk mail, we missed chasing out Pomeranian puppies after they saw a cat. All the simplicities in life, we missed. We created new daily habits like as a family we would move my husband's legs so he wouldnt get blood clots, my daughters would help me rotate Jamie from side to side so he wouldnt get bed sores, we would gather around his hospital bed in our cold metal chairs just to see him open his eyes. Knowing that when he did, he would see his devoted family beside him loving and missing him.
It was the fight inside of us, the love for our country and fellow service members that kept our dream of one day going home to Kansas and living happily ever after alive. However, that dream was shattered on March 10, 2012 when doctors relayed the information that my husband SSG Jamie Jarboe was terminal and needed to be placed in Hospice care for the remainder of his life -I I remember the last few days of Jamie's life, the nurses asked him if he regretted his service. If he had to do it all over again, would he join the military?
With out hesitation my husband said: "I have no regrets. I love the military. I love my country. I'd take that bullet again."
As Jamie and I held one another, we not only embraced the hardships we had endured for the last 11 months of fighting for life, we embraced the reality of the end of a soldier’s life. Jamie asked Me to get a pen and paper to write down what he was about to tell me. He said “We might as well use the rest of my life to help plan the rest of yours.”
“The first thing he told me to write was, I love you and don’t you ever forget that, second, keep helping my soldiers and their families, take care of my soldiers and don’t ever let them forget they have our support. As for his last wish, I will keep that personal between Jamie & I for now.
As I lay next to him once again on his hospital bed, I asked him if he wants to let me go. He shook his head yes. I started to cry once more at the thought of losing my Jamie, and he shook his head no, I told him, I love him so much and he shook his head yes, I asked him if he knows how much everyone is going to miss him and he shook his head yes, I told him I remembered everything he told me to do and I will promise to do it, he shook his head yes, then after I kissed his lips I told him I know he has struggled more than humanly possible and I’m sorry for being so greedy and keeping you here because I didn’t want to let you go . He shook his head no and I gave him one last kiss. The private care nurse said she already made the call to the doctor and at 9:25am March 21, 2012 my husband took his last and final breath.
"I put all the love and admiration I have for him into everyone around me," it helps me heal and helps me become a better person." Each day I strive to create change in the world, just as my husband created change in me, I learned that I was not doing enough each day I went to my office, each day I lived out the American Dream, not realizing that in a moments notice, I would be taught a valuable lesson. Selfless service to others,
“If my husband can give his life for our country, then I can live each day for him, carrying on his dying wish to care for his fellow service members.”
Months after Jamie’s death, I took time to reflect on our life and after trying to understand how I was going to carry out Jamie's wish I chose to launch the Jamie Jarboe Foundation now named the Military Veteran Project a 501c3 Nonprofit which advovcates, educates & honors Military Veterans and their families.
The mission statement of the foundation is:
“To honor and Empower our Military Veterans"
To raise awareness and enlist the community's support.
Reintegration for service members with peer to peer support
To provide services, programs and grant the empowerment to Military Veterans.
Lead the nation by example through our patriotic leader outreach program.
Tonight I thank you for allowing me share my life with and help carrying on not only husband's wish and his memory.
My name is Melissa Jarboe, military spouse, wounded warrior wife and war widow. Today and everyday moving forward, I will honor the sacrifice of our men and women who selflessly serve our nation.