By Keisha L. Jackson
Ever heard, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade?” What about when life gives you lemons but no sugar?
Pucker up! be thankful for the nutrients inside lemons.
Jessica Allen was a military spouse, making lemonade (working on a client’s tax return) when she received a frantic call from her sister, “The Army called mom… she’s freaking out… I don’t know what to do.”
“I need y’all to remain as calm as possible because this is going to be a bad day,” Jessica replies.
Her sister didn’t know she had prearranged with the Army, that if her husband were killed in combat, the Army should contact their mom and take her to Jessica so she wouldn’t receive bitter news alone.
Jessica took time to breathe then dialed the number given to her mom--Fort Campbell Rear Detachment. She learned her husband; Staff Sgt. Chaz Allen detonated an IED (improvised explosive device) while patrolling on foot in Afghanistan and was being evacuated from the battlefield. Jessica didn’t know Chaz remained alert long enough to radio his injuries to the Med Evac helicopter which flew him to Kandahar. Ironically, the pilot’s children and the Allen’s children went to pre-school together.
Inside the first operating room, one of the surgeons happened to be one of Jessica’s clients. When he realized he was operating on her husband, he leaned over and said something that remains a joke between him and the Allen’s,
“you are not dying today because your wife does my taxes.”
Jessica’s husband loss an elbow and both legs above his knees. For five months, she flew weekly from Tennessee to the Walter Reed National Medical Center, in Bethesda, Maryland, courtesy of the Fisher House, “Hero Miles” program. “Being an infantry wife, I was prepared for my husband to come home safe or in a box. But I wasn’t prepared for him to come home wounded.”
Though her husband endured surgeries and flesh-eating bacteria, his recovery resulted from focusing on what he could do rather than couldn’t. Nine months later, he was hand-cycling in the Army Ten-Miler, in Washington, D.C., raising money for fellow wounded warriors.
Less than four years after experiencing the most bitter day of Jessica’s life, she became the director of the Yellow Ribbon Fund’s Family Caregiver Program and an Elizabeth Dole Foundation, Dole Fellow.
What is Jessica’s response to when life gives you lemons? “Take every moment one step at a time. You can get mad, but guess what? There’s nothing you can do.”
In other words, pucker up. Be thankful for the nutrients inside lemons.
What Jessica does find sweet, “my daughters still have their father and I still have my husband.”
Jessica Allen was a guest on WVON 1690AM America’s Heroes Group. She is her husband’s fulltime caregiver, the mother of two, an Accredited Financial Counselor and a FINRA Military Spouse Fellow for tax
services. She authored Financial Fitness for Military and Veteran Caregivers—now content for AARP’s Financial Workbooks for Caregivers.