Military Spouse Discusses Life Before and After CTU

CTU Wounded Warrior Spouse Scholarship Winner Gina RinderOne of our students, Gina Rinder (and a two-time recipient of the Wounded Warrior Scholarship), was featured on KAFA Radio with Bob Boskin for their regular Character Matters segment. She discussed the trials and tribulations of being the spouse of a Wounded Warrior — her husband suffered a brain injury —and the subsequent ways she overcame those trials by obtaining something that was just for her — a CTU education. She is now working on her doctorate. Read some highlights of the interview below.

What brought [your husband] to the Army? Is he from an Army family? Why did he join?

GR: He’s actually from a Navy family. He’s always had a thing about tanks. That was always fun for him; he could go out and be on the front lines, so he left the Navy way of life and went his own path and went to the Army. Twenty-three years of tanks. He really enjoyed it. He said it was the best job he’s ever had.

Now the spouses—you all don’t sign up for this. [You all are the quiet warriors]. I hope that you had an inkling of what you were getting into when he signed up…You’ve probably seen those 18-year old spouses who have no idea what they’re getting into and they’re in…Is there shock in finding out, ‘wow, this is the real thing’?

GR: Yes, it’s a shock. When he first finished basic training we went to Kansas—Fort Riley—I didn’t realize how often I’d be alone. He was gone all the time. He was in Kansas, but he was at this field then that one, then off to California for NTC, and I was alone all the time.

Did someone take you under their wing and say, “let me help you”?

GR: No, when I got to Kansas as a young army wife, I was on my own. There was no housing on post; there was no housing near post. We ended up living 45 miles away in Alta Vista and nobody ever called and checked on me and no one ever invited me anywhere. The local community eventually took me in, and then we had playgroups and mom groups and that’s how I got connected. I think it’s different now—I think the Army does have more support for the wives.

You said in 2006 that that was the first time [your husband] got hit by an IED? But he didn’t come back—he stayed.

GR: He stayed. He never brought up the option of coming home, so I thought it was a choice. He would get hurt and say he’s fine. He wouldn’t have ever left his guys there. He’s kind of a tank leader that would say his boots are the first on the ground and the last ones off so, that’s who he is. Arguing wouldn’t have helped at all.

How do you accept that for 23 years this is the way he is and you’re not going to change him?

GR: This is his career. This is his life’s dream to serve his country. He loves what he does and when I married him I signed up for it. As the deployments go on you get better at it. You become more independent. In a way it gets easier, in a way it gets harder. As you become more independent, it’s hard to have him home because you’re not as reliant on him, so there’s constant changing and evolving and you just get through it and decide you’re here to stay. 

Part of the way you’ve been coping with it is the Wounded Warrior Project and their education programs and you’re working on a doctorate now! Good for you!

GR: During his deployments…you start to feel like, ‘my life’s on hold,’ and you start to feel like you have to do something for yourself. He’s going to come home a hero and he should! But I need to accomplish something for myself while he’s gone, and I went back to school and got my degree. I first went back to school during his deployment for a bachelor’s degree, and then I went to CTU for a master’s, and then went back for a doctorate in management, Homeland Security. What I really want is to come back to Colorado Tech as an instructor because they’ve done so much to help the military community and I want to give back..…get involved and help them out.

What advice can you give to military spouses out there?

GR: When you’re a military spouse, everything is focused on the service member. Keep something [for] yourself. It helps you cope. It helps you feel like you’ve accomplished something during their career, so consider going back to school. There will be a day when you’re not in the military anymore. Get a degree. Colorado Tech is great because they’re really good with dealing with military and helping out. They have military advisors. Do that for yourself. No one can take it away from you. It’ll help you for all your life.

For more information, you can check out Gina and her husband’s CTU testimonial here.