Taking a Second Chance on Happiness
The Wounded Warrior Scholarship is a unique opportunity for military personnel and their spouses to pursue higher education at Colorado Technical University. Norma Boyd is the main caretaker for her injured veteran husband, and is using her Wounded Warrior scholarship to pursue a degree in Criminal Justice – Human Services.
“Life,” observes Norma Boyd, “doesn’t have to hold anyone back…There’s nothing too big that you can’t reach.”
Looking at those words by themselves can feel inspiring. But talk with Norma for five minutes about her life, and such an observation begins to feel downright powerful. Norma has triumphed in the face of more than her share of adversity, from caring for her injured veteran husband, to raising six children. Yet after all these experiences, Norma is not ready to give up. She’s ready to earn her Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice – Human Services.
Out of the Shadows
This chapter of Norma’s story begins around the time she met the love of her life, Brandon Boyd. Prior to meeting him, she was a single parent of four children, struggling to make ends meet and trying to figure out how to go from not having a high-school diploma to embarking on a fulfilling career path. Little did she know that meeting Brandon would set into motion a series of events that would change her life for the better.
At the time, Brandon was a patient at Fort Hood’s Warrior Transition Unit. He was a paraplegic who was told the injuries he’d sustained on deployment in Iraq would prevent him from walking again. He was also battling cancer, several internal injuries, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post Tramatic Stress (PTS). But Norma wasn’t thinking about his prognosis; she was busy getting to know him, first as a friend on social media, and later as a closer friend she chatted to on the phone. By the time July rolled around, Norma and Brandon were officially dating, with Norma visiting him on weekends. One month later, the couple was engaged.
A New Set of Challenges
Life threw Norma and Brandon the first of many curveballs in September 2009. The couple was planning to wait a year before getting married, but Brandon’s pending back surgery and year-long recovery accelerated their plans. The surgery would require him to relocate to San Antonio Texas, and their unmarried status did not allow for Norma to join him.
The solution was straightforward: Norma and Brandon married on October 17, 2009. Their honeymoon was spent at Fort Hood in preparation for Brandon’s surgery, which led to Norma’s becoming his full-time caregiver. Though a stressful time, their wedding day brought even more joy: Brandon received a call telling him that his cancer was officially in remission.
After Brandon’s surgery, Norma embarked on a new journey as Brandon’s advocate and caregiver. When his colon erupted in April 2013 – an event triggered by his war injuries – it was Norma who cleaned and changed the colostomy bag on a daily basis until it was reversed eight weeks later. When Brandon developed open sores, it was Norma who packed them twice a day for a month. And throughout it all – the memory lapses, the PTSD, the doctor’s appointments – it’s Norma who has stood by Brandon’s side.
“It’s been challenging, but we’ve had a lot of faith,” Norma says simply. “And we have each other’s backs. That’s why I think CTU giving us this opportunity to do this together has made it more special, because now it’s another journey that we get to do together.”
Already, Norma and Brandon’s journey has led them to joyful places. Their daughter, Faith, completed their family of seven, thanks to IVF. And Brandon, who once believed himself forever confined to the wheelchair, is beginning to walk again. But the Wounded Warrior Scholarship, which Norma earned in order to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice, presents an opportunity for Norma to improve her personal situation. Suddenly the quiet, steadfast woman who once retreated to the periphery of life has stepped into the spotlight – and it’s a transition no one appreciates more than Norma herself.
“I hadn’t had the opportunity to go to college before,” Norma says, “and now that I’m able to, I have to grab it.”
The urgency reflects Norma’s dual desires. On one hand, she wants to demonstrate to her children the importance of education and that, “there is always a second chance in life.” On the other hand, she wants to come into her own as an independent, fully-realized woman. Yes, she is a mother, a wife, a caregiver and a non-profit leader. But now it’s time for her to see who she is outside of those defining roles. “This is giving me the opportunity to figure myself out as a person and to figure out what else I can do as a person,” Norma explains.
The options feel refreshingly vast. Norma, who loves helping others, foresees a time when she might work in adoption or with military families. Already her volunteer work, both with Hurricane Katrina victims and with military families, speaks to her desire to positively impact her community. Earning her degree will only enhance her ability to do so. But for now, the reserved, determined Norma can sum up her life’s lessons in three inspiring words for anyone else facing adversity: “Don’t give up.”