By Elizabeth Rhodes
As featured in our May 2012 issue, Cheryl Gansner’s husband, Bryan, 34, was severely injured in 2006 when his platoon ran over an improvised explosive device during his second tour of duty in Iraq.
Cheryl, 29, of Knoxville, Tenn., became his caretaker. Today, she helps other wives of wounded veterans by offering one-on-one support and organizing retreats for Operation Homefront’s Wounded Warrior Wives program. She said she has no regrets about Bryan’s heroic sacrifice, but the effects of his traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) still impact their lives every day.
We caught up with Cheryl recently for an update on her life with Bryan, her blog, Wife of a Wounded Warrior, and her latest efforts to support military wives.
How are you and Bryan?
Bryan and I are doing really well at this point. We’re both working, and Bryan’s physical condition is as good as it’s going to get for now. He still suffers from pain every single day, and his TBI and PTSD are still present, but we just find ways to cope with it as best as we can. Even though what happened to Bryan was a tragedy, now I can give back by providing some hope and direction for other wives.
Have you been to any retreats with the Wounded Warrior Wives program recently?
Yes! I attended a weekend retreat in March with about 30 other wives in Hilton Head, S.C. It was great—in fact, a couple of the women stayed a bit longer because they were having so much fun. We went to a conference that covered TBI and PTSD, as well as some ways to cope and take care of yourself. When we had time off, we just hung out together—we walked on the beach, relaxed by the pool and had a movie night. I also organized an April retreat in Nashville, and I still offer one-on-one support to the wives.
How can the rest of us do our part to help military families?
Some of the most amazing ways to let military families know you care are little gestures, like sending a thoughtful card. Or you can give something practical: when Bryan was in the hospital, people sent us gift cards for food since we had to eat out a lot. Go out in your community and offer to cook a meal once a week, babysit or cut grass since many wounded warriors can’t do that themselves. It can be a huge challenge for families to take care of these tasks on top of everything else.
How does Bryan feel about you sharing your story on your blog, Wife of a Wounded Warrior?
He loves it. He has never actually read my blog because he doesn’t want to relive what we’ve been through, but he has always been very open about everything, and he thinks blogging is a great way to let others know our story. Sometimes I’ll run a particular post or subject by him, but he always says it’s fine. If it helps one person to read about what we’re going through, that’s all that matters.