Ask Technical Sergeant Tom Marcum what injuries he sustained over the course of his seven deployments overseas since he joined the Air Force in 1996, and he'll rattle off a startling list.
"Traumatic brain injury, a blowout fracture of my right eye, reconstruction on my right shoulder, equilibrium disorder, debris in my lungs from explosions, hearing loss, cognitive problems, I have no short-term memory, and PTSD," Tom said, pausing to think of any others he might have left out. "I think that's it."
Tom is an extremely optimistic Georgia native. He and his equally strong-willed wife, April, have found solace and a community through the Wounded Warrior Project - an organization dedicated to providing support to injured servicemembers across the country. Immediately upon Tom's return to the states in 2008, the project helped him ease the difficult transition back into civilian life.
This year, Tom is part of Wounded Warrior's campaign to get the word out about the organization. "A lot of people, when they think of organizations like this, they think they only help the people who are wounded in combat, but that's not the whole gist of it. They help the entire family."
And Tom and April have certainly been through their share of trials--a string of issues resulting from Tom's many injuries over the years, and his consistent, long-term hospital care far from their home in Valdosta, Georgia.
In 2008, for instance, one of their two young sons was diagnosed with secondary Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. "He was acting out at school, refusing to go to sleep because he'd have nightmares about his dad dying in an explosion," April said. "We didn't know what to do." The Project helped set Tom and April's son up with counseling and special care.
Financially, the transition has been difficult. "Tom is TDRL, Temporary Duty Retirement List," April said. "This is a way for the military to say, 'well you're a little bit better, so let's not pay you as much.'"
The military has taken months to reevaluate Tom's condition, and the family no longer gets a housing allowance. April recently had to give up her full-time job teaching at a local pre-school to become Tom's full-time caregiver. She attended a caregivers retreat through The Wounded Warrior Project, where she met other spouses who had to learn, quickly, how to permanently care for their loved one.
Through his work with Wounded Warriors and his time in countless hospitals, Tom has tried to done all he can to lift the spirits of his fellow GIs, many of whom were suicidal.
"I've always tried to have a positive attitude," Tom said. "Because that's the only way that you're going to get through this, giving yourself and other people some hope."