I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
What advice would you offer to other military and veteran caregivers?
Journal, use respite care, stay active, and connected with others.
Can you tell us about one of your most challenging days?
My most challenging days were during the pandemic. Gretchen reads lips and when masks were mandated that made her unable to communicate with people on many occasions. I had to translate almost every conversation and sometimes people would insist she answer herself for legal reasons and it was hard for them to understand that I had to tell her what they were saying and do it in a way that did not seem like I was influencing her in any way. One day she was stuck at an airport due to a flight cancellation and could not get anyone to help her reschedule a flight without taking off their masks, it was an impossible task for Gretchen, and I was on the phone trying to help but it was so frustrating
Taking lessons from his 25.5 years of military service and extensive experience providing spiritual guidance to service members enduring the challenges of war and military life, Robert “Bob” Evans now uses his skills and faith to care for his wife Gretchen.
Bob was a Navy Chaplain when Gretchen was severely wounded by a mortar round in Afghanistan. Despite her life-changing injuries, which included hearing loss, traumatic brain injury (TBI), cognitive delay, shrapnel wounds, and internal injuries, Bob and Gretchen married shortly after her release from the hospital.
Gretchen struggled with major depression and has faced many challenges that directly relate to her injuries; especially her deafness, TBI, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). At one point, Gretchen contemplated ending her life when pushed into heavy traffic by a cyclist coming from behind while running.
Bob leans on his training as a chaplain and pastoral counselor to provide the right support and care at the right time, though he admits he doesn’t always have all the answers. At their toughest time, he was fortunate to have the help of a gifted care team that he worked with while serving as the chaplain at their local VA. With their support, he was able to assist Gretchen in overcoming some of her physical injuries and rebound from her emotional setback.
Today, Bob’s devotion to Gretchen’s physical and mental wellness has enabled her to rise as a nationally known advocate for service members and veterans. As her caregiver, Bob ensures that she has the resources and support to achieve her passion and purpose in life. As Gretchen speaks nationally and internationally, Bob helps interpret when she has trouble lip reading or if an explanation is required, such as with flight announcements and alarms. Bob also drives, guides, and re-directs Gretchen when her TBI causes her to lose her way.
Gretchen’s fearlessness in public and Bob’s seamless support can mask many of the challenges they face. Those around them often underestimate the extent of Bob’s responsibilities, which has created some social isolation and struggles asking for help. However, Bob has always accepted his caregiving role and believes it has become his calling and new vocation.