Jennifer Washam grew up with the dream of becoming an elementary school teacher. However, when her then-fiancé, U.S. Army Sergeant Joe Washam, was severely wounded in a blast while on patrol in the streets of Baghdad, Iraq, she was forced to put this dream on hold and instead became a full-time caregiver. ​

The blast left Joe with severe burns over 40% of his body, leaving him fully dependent on others throughout the over 20 months of medical recovery and treatment. Through it all, Jennifer was by his side. Her role as a caregiver began in the burn unit’s ICU as she learned a variety of medical terms and how to bandage burned fingers, and she helped him push through the pain of numerous surgeries and therapy sessions. The more challenging aspects of the role came later when he returned home, broken and suffering from the invisible wounds of war. ​

Despite the intense pain that Joe suffered, and the secondary pain Jennifer endured watching him suffer, the couple pushed through and found hope on the other side. They were married in a church across the street from the Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) where Joe was treated and later started a family. This newfound hope inspired Jennifer to reignite her passion for becoming a teacher. In the Fall of 2018, inspired by her story and resilience, we were proud to award her one of our Military Spouse & Caregiver Scholarships to help her achieve her dream.​