This year, Sami Anderson and her husband Garrett celebrate the number 10 it represents both their tenth wedding anniversary and ten years since Garrett’s “Alive Day,” the day an IED detonated under his Humvee on a night mission in Baghdad. Only six months separated the two events.
Sami was a second-year law school student in Michigan when she received the news of Garrett’s injuries. He had lost his right arm, suffered severe facial injuries — the left side of his face would be rebuilt with metal plates that extend down to his chin and also bunker the eye socket — and his tongue was reattached.
Garrett was scheduled to spend the next twelve months in recovery at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, and Sami was faced with a tough decision: return to class in two weeks as required, or withdraw from school.
In those two weeks, Sami had already taken her first steps as Garrett’s caregiver, and he had come to rely on her for emotional support.
While her future as a lawyer was back in Michigan, her future with Garrett was starting over in DC. Sami couldn’t bear the thought of Garrett losing faith or hope in his recovery if she weren’t there to help him survive. Turning away from her dream, she told her law school she wouldn’t be coming back.
Looking back, Sami realized that living at Walter Reed kept the realities of functioning in a marriage and family at a distance.
That changed when they returned home and the stress of the mortgage, bills, new baby, schedules and life demands would reveal fissures in Garrett’s recovery. Something wasn’t right. He had massive headaches every day and spent some days in bed. His memory faltered and he had difficulty turning thoughts into words.
A civilian neurologist diagnosed Garrett with a traumatic brain injury and the VA later confirmed it.
While they still struggle with Garrett’s massive headaches, and memory and cognitive problems, Sami hasn’t let their challenges keep them from moving forward.
They now have two young daughters and Sami managed to return and graduate from law school. She has since opened her own practice, concentrating on family law and pro bono work on veterans’ services.
As a Dole Caregiver Fellow she shares her determination to push back on life’s challenges no matter what happens or how difficult a situation seems at the time.
She says her biggest failure would be to let another wife go through this alone.
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