Sgt. Garrett Anderson, now retired, in 2005 was on patrol in Iraq with four other soldiers/interpreters when an IED was detonated underneath the humvee he was driving. The explosion resulted in the amputation of one of his arms as well as significant damage to his jaw and a traumatic brain injury. Despite the extent of his injuries, the Veteran’s Administration did not give award him the full amount of benefits as warranted, but he successfully appealed. He and his wife Sami, a local attorney, speak to lawyers across the state encouraging them to assist veterans in their claims for VA benefits. The pair has two daughters, 5-year-old Skyler and 2-year-old Alex, and they live in Champaign.
See why we think Garrett Anderson is a Chambana dad to know.
Q: This week we celebrate Veteran’s Day. What does Veteran’s Day mean to you?
I am reminded of the soldiers who served before me and who set the standard for selfless service to our country. Military service is certainly not a lucrative way to make a living. We all join for many different reasons but I believe that one reason common among all soldiers is love for our country. In the United States, we have a long history of people who have served in the military not because it is an easy or fun job, but because they believed, and still believe, that we are living in the greatest country on earth. Veteran’s Day is that day when I am reminded that my way of living today was protected and preserved because of the efforts of every single soldier that has served this country.
Q: Do you have any suggestions for how or what we should teach our children about Veteran’s Day?
We need to make sure that our children know that there are men and women who have sacrificed and continue to sacrifice to ensure that we will continue to have the opportunities and freedoms that so many other people in the world will never experience. That there are soldiers who serve today who find our children so important that they want to protect them and make sure that they continue to live in a country where there are no limits on their dreams and what they can become.
Q: You recently spoke at a fundraising event for Wounded Warriors. What message did you deliver to that audience?
My message continues to be that an injury is not life ending. Sure, my life has take a difference course but that has not been a bad thing. What happened has lead to so many opportunities that I probably would not have had if I had not been injured in Iraq. The right attitude and a strong support system really does make all the difference in whether a successful recovery and outcome will be achieved. That is exactly what the Wounded Warrior Project is all about, being that support system for so many wounded soldiers and helping them see that an injury is just an obstacle to overcome and not something to be beaten by.
Q. How is your health these days? How does that affect you as a parent?
My injuries are permanent, basically I work around them each day. As far as affecting me as a parent, I have not experienced anything negative. Sure, I have to adjust and learn things a little differently like changing a diaper with a hook, but there is nothing that I cannot do. I have been given the opportunity to be there for my daughters everyday, experience everything with them and I wouldn’t change that.
Q: What do your children know about your military service? Do you talk about it with them?
My daughters are 2 and 5, so I try to be age appropriate. Of course, my 5-year-old can look at pictures before my injuries and see that I had two arms, so an explanation became necessary. She knows that I was hurt in a war and for now that has pretty much satisfied her. I am sure that more detailed conversations will come as they get older and I am okay with that.
Q: What is your biggest parenting challenge right now?
I have two daughters and one is 2, enough said. Seriously though, I think I share the same challenges that every parent does. I try every day to make sure that my girls have a happy childhood. We all have the same worries, am I raising children who are going to be happy, successful adults. I take each day as it comes and do the best job that I can. Being a parent is probably the most challenging thing I have ever done. It’s definitely not an easy job but I think the best experiences in life are not always the easy ones.
Garrett Anderson was nominated to be a Chambana Dad to Know – send us nominations for your favorite local moms and dads!