The Long Road Home:
Living life beyond disability
"I was actually supposed to die on the scene, and on my way to the hospital, and pretty much a million other places I wasn't supposed to make it." said John Edmonston. "So, they called my family in to come see me for my last hoorah and I ended up living."
The aircraft carrier John C. Stennis (CVN 74) had just returned from a deployment in 2009. "It had been eight months. We got back and I was on a motorcycle. I was riding with my favorite motorcycle partner and I ended up in an accident. I tried to ride like I had ridden eight months ago - certain things go I guess."
During Edmonston's accident his helmet came off and his head repeatedly slammed into the ground. This resulted in a traumatic brain injury.
The crash was the beginning of a long struggle that started with the injuries from the motorcycle accident and ended with a successful career with the Department of Defense, and several sports medals.
Initially, Edmonston couldn't take care of himself, couldn't read and couldn't even speak. During his recovery, he would repeat answers to questions three times.
"It's very strange how my brain came back. I went through a year of rehab. The Navy kept me onboard to see me through the rest of it before they medically discharged me," said Edmonston. "I changed commands. I went from being a nuclear division officer aboard the John C. Stennis, to working under Lt. Cmdr. Michael Christenson who was the leader in the general region of Bremerton for Navy, Safe Harbor."
Navy Wounded Warrior, Safe Harbor is the Navy's organization for coordinating the non-medical care of seriously wounded, ill and injured Sailors and Coast Guardsmen, and providing resources and support to their families. The program provides individually tailored assistance designed to optimize the success of the wounded warriors' recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration activity.
Safe Harbor is one of many programs offered to wounded and disabled veterans around the country. Through this program, Edmonston was able to get the treatment he needed, along with helping his family to cope with this monumental adjustment.
"First and foremost, Safe Harbor is really about getting our wounded, ill and injured Sailors and Coast Guardsmen back into the game and providing non-medical care so that they can focus on recovery," said Vice Adm. Dixon Smith, commander, Navy Installations Command. "That's really the purpose of Navy Wounded Warrior, Safe Harbor. It's also about taking care of the families. You get sick or injured or ill on duty, we're going to take care of you for the rest of your life. We look to help the caregivers, the providers and family members through this difficult time."
Navy Wounded Warrior, Safe Harbor and other programs assist in the transition back to the work force or back into home life after an incident may render a person disabled.
"Once I was able to get myself from place to place, Mike Christianson, an activated reservist at the time, had me check in on base to relearn what it was like to be in an office and work - maybe one day get back to working professionally."
With help from Safe Harbor and supportive friends and family, Edmonston was able to overcome the obstacles he and his family faced and learn how to return to the work force and try to get back a piece of what he lost.
On his free time, Edmonston is an avid swimmer and runner. He has competed in Invictus and the Warrior Games, winning several medals. Although the accident changed a lot of things for him, it did not take away his passion for motorcycles - to this day he continues to ride.
Throughout October, take the time to learn about disabilities those around you may be facing and how you can help. You may not know anyone personally, but the simple act of being kind and helping people through a tough situation may in fact help that person back to living the life they had before.