Sustaining a military
marriage is hard work, especially when deployments keep a family separated for
prolonged periods of time. The strain is intensified when the serving spouse is
injured in the field. According to the PTSD
Foundation of America, an estimated two out of three marriages fail for
troops suffering from combat trauma. Carlos R. Evans and Rosemarie Evans are
well aware of the difficulties, having experienced them personally. In Standing
Together: The Inspirational Story of a Wounded Warrior and Enduring Love (Kregel
Publications), they share their inspirational story of facing severe injury,
rehabilitation, post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction. Theirs is a true
story of hope and courage in the face of astonishing challenges.
Carlos, first of all,
thank you for your service to our country. Can you share a little bit about what
led you to enlist and the eight years you served in the US Marine
Many of my family members served in Vietnam, Korea, and Operation Desert Storm.
After 9/11, I felt deeply in my heart that I had to do my part by serving my
country, but I also wanted to continue to share the gospel. I was in Bible college
at the time and wanted to join as a chaplain. In 2004, I was watching the news
and saw Marines in Iraq.
I admired what they were doing, and it was in that moment I felt a strong
conviction to serve. I went to the recruiting center in Puerto
Rico and joined the Marine Corps. That is a decision I will never
regret, and I would do it all over again.
During my first four years of service, I did three combat
deployments in Iraq.
When I re-enlisted, I deployed to Afghanistan. It was during that
deployment that I was severely injured. We saw two years of rehabilitation in the
hospital, then I was medically retired.
You were on your
fourth deployment, this time to Afghanistan,
when an incident changed life as you knew it. What happened on May 16, 2010?
I was a Sergeant in the Marine Corps, leading a mission in HelmandProvince, when we were getting ready to go
back to our operation center. I walked about eight steps when I heard an
explosion. I had stepped on an improvised explosive device (IED). I felt pain
in my body unlike anything I had ever felt or experienced before. My Marines
and Navy Corpsman kept me alive. I lost so much blood that my medic had to put
his thumb in my femoral artery to keep me alive. They asked me for my wife and
daughters’ names and told me they were waiting for me back home. I was flown
via medevac to the hospital in Afghanistan
and then to Germany.
From Germany, I was
transferred to BethesdaNavalHospital
in Washington, DC.
As a result of my injuries, I lost both of my legs above the
knee and part of my left arm. I don’t remember what happened during those first
few days because I was intubated and sedated.
Back home in Puerto Rico, Rosemarie
and my mother received visits from Marines bringing updates about my situation.
The same night I arrived at Bethesda,
my wife and parents got to the hospital and waited to take care of me. To this
day, I continue to meet people that took care of me in Germany and Afghanistan.
That day has become the best day of my life, and today we celebrate
it as our “Alive Day.”
Were deployments a
source of fear in any way? Did you think about how something might happen to
you during a deployment?
During that deployment and the three previous ones, I don’t
think I ever considered that anything was going to happen to me. I personally
knew others who had died and some who were badly wounded, but as a Christian, I
figured God was with me and would protect me from every kind of harm. On my
various furloughs, I said to friends and family members, “I’m not going to die
in Iraq or Afghanistan.
God has a bigger purpose for my life.”
But I also remember the day when all my family members and
friends came to say goodbye. I made jokes such as, “Something is going to
happen to me because this is the first time in all my deploys that everyone came
here to celebrate.” Also, before deployment, I forced my wife to watch the
movie Taking Chances. In the movie,
Kevin Bacon is an officer that went to a house and notified the family member about
their loss. I told Rosemarie that if something happened to me in Afghanistan,
the Marines would come to the front door to let her know I died in combat.
Rosemarie, you write
about a call that you received on May 15 from Carlos that left you unsettled
and worried. Can you tell us more about that day and the days that followed?
How long did you have to live in uncertainty about Carlos’ condition?
That Saturday night I was at my uncle’s wedding. On my way
back home, I received Carlos’s call. I was happy to hear from him because he
couldn’t call often. But when I answered the phone, I noticed something wasn’t
right. Carlos was responding flat and sometimes he was quiet. He told me, “Things
here are not the same as in Iraq.
You know that I love you, and I love my daughters.”
When he said those words, I knew he was worried and that they
were in some danger. We lost phone connection that night, and I didn’t have the
chance to speak to him again. Sunday passed, and I didn’t hear from him. On Monday
afternoon, I received a call from the Marine Corps to let me know they would
meet me at Carlos’ mother’s house. That’s when they told me Carlos was injured,
but they didn’t have all the details. From that Monday until Friday, I waited
each day for them to come to the house to deliver updated information about his
You were an
experienced nurse and had training in trauma life support, but were you truly
prepared to care for Carlos when he arrived home? How did you manage taking
care of Carlos and your two young daughters?
As a nurse, I had the knowledge of what should I expect to
see when I met Carlos at the hospital. An intubated patient connected to a
mechanical ventilator with drainages and monitors. However, at that point I had
a different role. I was the wife of an injured husband. Being a nurse helped me
understand procedures and prognosis, but I felt the same uncertainty,
desperation, sadness, and helplessness any other family member feels when a
loved one is going through a difficult time. I wasn’t completely prepared
because it was an unexpected situation. Before leaving to go to Afghanistan, Carlos
and I talked about what should I expect if I saw the Marines at the front door (that
he had died in combat), but we never talked about him coming back home
seriously injured. We didn’t expect that and weren’t aware of how many service
members were injured in the war. When I stepped into BethesdaHospital,
it was eye opening to see how many wounded service members came back and how
many families were affected.
When I first went to Bethesda,
I traveled without my daughters in order to focus on my husband. Our daughters
were four years old and five months old at the time. My mom took care of them
in Puerto Rico at first, but as the weeks
passed by, I was desperate to see my daughters. I felt conflicted between my
two roles as a wife and a mom. I asked two friends in North Carolina (where we were stationed) to
take care of my daughters there. That way they could bring my daughters to the
hospital, or I could travel from Washington, D.C. to North
Carolina to see them. When the doctor told me the
recovery process could take two years, we started to make plans for how we could
all be together. There were four women who were the key to finding us a place to
stay and be able to travel daily to the hospital for treatments. We had to
start early, at 5:30 in the morning, to have our older daughter ready for
school, the younger for childcare, and Carlos ready for treatments. We started new
routines, but we also had family members who stayed with us and helped. However,
we wanted to learn how to do it as a family of four. It was hard sometimes, but
God helped us through.
How was your faith
tested in the months that followed?
My faith was tested by trying to understand where God was in
the middle of my pain. Where was God when I stepped on the IED? I was
continuously asking God, “Why me?” Sometimes people would tell me that maybe
God was punishing me. Others would pray with me for a miracle—that my legs or
my left hand would grow. Sometimes I prayed I could forget May 17, 2010. Seeing
my wife and the people I love suffering, and not being able to do anything about
it, tested my faith.
Job 23:10 (NIV) says, “Buthe knows the way that I take; when he has
tested me, I will come forth as gold.”
Many marriages have
crumbled under the weight of trials less life-altering than what the two of you
went through, however, you’ve come out the other side stronger. Can you share
some of the decisions you made along the way to fight for your marriage?
There were many difficult decisions made during that period.
First, we needed to prioritize roles. There were times a decision left me
feeling unsatisfied, but we had to focus on what was needed in the moment. We
always tried to make decisions together. It didn’t matter that Carlos was
injured, we consulted each other on every decision. Carlos was injured, but he
was still the head of the family. We encouraged each other. When Carlos felt
ready to give up, I encouraged him. When I was feeling defeated, Carlos
encouraged me. Overall, the most important thing was to pray for guidance. In
this situation, we understood we were not self-sufficient. We needed God to give
us the strength to continue every day.
What were some of the
biggest challenges in facing your new normal?
I feared not being able to be the husband I promised Rosemarie
I would be. I feared not being able to be a father to my daughters. I also
feared rejection from other people. I didn’t love my new body. I wasn’t born
without legs and one hand. Everything was new to me: Not being able to walk, to
drive my car, to do things we take for granted. I was afraid I was no longer
able to be independent. Living with constant pain was one of the biggest
What advice would you
give to someone who may not be seeking help for their depression, Post
Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or even addiction?
Trying to help someone that is not actively seeking help is very
challenging. It could be the person has not recognized that he or she has a
problem. In my situation, I had people who confronted me, showing me that my
actions were hurting me and the people who loved me. My personal advice would
be: do not push away the people in your life that care about and help you.
Also, believe the best days of your life are not behind you, but ahead of you.
I would say to somebody in that situation you are not the only person facing
PTSD or addiction, so look for a professional or a support group. They can
share examples of how they have faced similar situations.
What were some of the
ways you saw God working in your recovery?
In the beginning, my questions were, “Where is God? and “Why
me?” During my recovery, I understood God has always been there, taking care of
me. He was with my Marines when I stepped on the IED. He was with my wife and
daughters, giving them strength so they could comfort me. God was with the
doctors, nurses, family, friends, and many strangers who have become family. I
saw God was making me a better father, husband and person. Each time we shared
our story with someone, I saw God using my recovery for good.
When did you realize
God was preparing you for full-time ministry? What doors started to open for
Since I was a little kid, I served in ministry. It was deep
inside of my heart. After my injury, we started to share our experience with
family and friends. Our scars became our platform—in churches, via TV, at the
White House, on Military bases, in schools and correctional facilities, all
over the United States,
South America, the Caribbean, Europe and Asia.
You say, “Standing
has nothing to do with having feet.” What do you mean by that?
In my life, standing is living God’s purpose in my life.
Also, serving in my community, being a father and husband, and leading by
example means standing in my life.
My daughter, Nairoby, taught me a lesson about standing. She
was five years old and playing and running all over the apartment. She told me,
“Now you run Papi, you run Papi!” I told her I wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t
run right now. I didn’t have the legs to be able to. I went to my room crying, and
Rosemarie asked me why. I told her why, and she replied, “Don’t you see that
she doesn’t see what you can’t do? She looks at you as Papi.” That’s what it
means to stand.
Please share what has
become your motto.
One day I was trying to put on my
prosthetic hand and legs. I was struggling and getting frustrated. I wanted to
look like I used to. I believe the Holy Spirit touched my heart, and I received
this message: “I am touching more people with one hand then when I had two.
Today, I am leaving more footprints than when I had feet because all you need
to touch someone is heart.”
Where can people
learn more about Touching Lives Leaving Footprints and C.R. Evans Ministries?
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