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    Jared Estes shares story of resilience

    Jared Estes shares story of resilience

    Photo By Sgt. Rachel Skowyra | Motivational speaker Jared Estes, who lost his wife and suffered severe burns after...... read more read more



    Story by Spc. Rachel Skowyra 

    215th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

    In 2005, Jared Estes was hit by a drunk driver, which resulted in second and third degree burns on over 50 percent of his body. But even worse than the physical pain from his wounds was the hole left in his heart. Paige, his wife of only six months, did not make it out of the burning vehicle.

    Estes has shared his story with thousands of service members and civilians across the country since the accident. On Sept. 15, Estes stood before a group of service members and government civilians to tell that story at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans in Belle Chase, Louisiana, in hopes of inspiring those in attendance with his story of resilience.

    With an easy laugh and quick wit, his spirit and personality do little to reveal the life-changing tragedy he endured. It made an impact on service members who found his presence and attitude uplifting and unexpected.

    “I enjoyed the humor he brought to his presentation after what he experienced,” said Army Staff Sgt. Keith Wright, chaplain assistant with the 377th Theater Sustainment Command.

    Estes views service members as the real heroes and made a point to thank them for spending the morning listening to his story. Military posts are his favorite places to speak, he said, because service members willingly enter situations that most people would run from.

    “I feel like I was forced into a dark place and forced to fight my way out of it,” Estes said. “You signed up for this knowing that you could be sent to some of the darkest places in the world, and to me, that’s true courage.”

    Estes was invited to speak to share his story of resiliency during National Suicide Awareness Month, which is observed in September. It’s a topic that touches the military community deeply. According to a study by the Department of Veterans Affairs released in 2016, about 20 veterans a day commit suicide nationwide. Estes found himself in a dark place after his accident and could have easily continued down that path, but instead chose to fight back, using his story to inspire others that may be headed down the same road.

    Estes spoke to the service members in the audience about his relationship with Paige, how happy he was, and the devastation that followed when it all came to an end. Throughout the presentation, Estes moved between jokes and laughter as he recalled happy memories with his wife and wrenching detail remembering pivotal moments that nearly caused him to give up.
    Estes spent two weeks in a coma after the accident. He remembers waking up, seeing his family and friends, people that he loved.

    “They looked liked strangers to me,” Estes said. “You get used (to) the way that the people you love look at you. And the way everyone was looking at me (that day) was so foreign to me that it frightened me.”

    He knew by the look in their eyes that something bad had happened. At that point, Estes was unaware that Paige had been killed. He started to ask for her, but nobody seemed to acknowledge his requests. His father cleared the room and told Estes that Paige did not make it. Estes had a few moments alone to take in the information he had just received.

    “The first thing I tried to do was picture my life and my future without Paige in it,” Estes said. “And as hard as I tried, I couldn’t do it. She had been in my life for so long. I never had any vision or version of my future that she wasn’t in.”

    Estes began to feel guilt that he had not saved Paige from the flames. He felt as though he had failed her. He began to pray to God that he would die and considers those few moments alone in his hospital room as the darkest moments of his life. God did not take him, and although his prognosis from the doctors was not very positive, Estes made it his mission to become well and mobile enough to visit Paige at her grave. He credits goal setting with getting him through his darkest moments. Estes said that he was excited on the day that he was getting ready to visit the grave.

    “This had been my goal. I had been using this to push myself through a lot of really tough days.”

    The excitement faded quickly when Estes realized that, due to his injuries, he was unable to throw the fit that he felt Paige deserved. He sat in a lawn chair by her grave. He was unable to kneel because he didn’t have the strength or balance. He was unable to cry because a surgery had left him with one eye sown shut.
    Estes told the service members that at that moment he felt he no longer had a reason to live. His one goal was to say good-bye to Paige at her grave. Now that he had accomplished that goal, he failed to see anything else in his future, and he began again to think about death.

    “I started thinking about how it was my goal to get to that cemetery, and I didn’t really have a goal after that,” Estes said. “I started wallowing. I started thinking about how much better my friends and family would be if I just died and what a burden I must be on everyone.”

    This is when Estes said he learned one of his most valuable lessons in life. At that point, as he was wallowing in self-pity, Paige’s mother walked over to the grave. She told Estes that Paige’s two young half siblings were in the car and wanted to see him. When he saw Paige’s brother and sister, it was almost like seeing her again. It took him back.

    “My next thought was: what if (those children) were in this accident and not me?” Estes wondered allowed. “What would I want, not just for them, but for myself? More than anything in the world, I would want them to come back from this and be happy again, and I would give or sacrifice anything to get them there.”

    Estes realized that he had been solely focused on himself and his loss. He seemed to forget that others had lost a daughter, a sister, a friend. Estes had a new goal: to get better. Not for himself, but for those he loved, and those who loved him.

    The service members present were moved by Estes and his story. Many had also lost a loved one and found his story relatable. Army Sgt. Ricky Hooker, an information technology specialist with the 377th TSC, lost his father two years ago.

    “You feel empty inside and you gotta keep moving,” Hooker said. “You gotta be resilient and just keep moving on for your loved ones that are here now.”

    Estes developed what he refers to as his weapons – values and rules and he has learned to live by since that day at Paige’s grave: grace, teamwork, goals, fear, attitude, perspective, gratefulness and letting go. Estes shared these weapons with the service members. He explained each weapon and how they have helped him to heal and stay positive.

    Wright said that he learned a lot from the presentation. Grace, as Estes explained it, is allowing others the benefit of the doubt. You never know what somebody else is going through. Estes said that he was able to make it through his recovery because of the grace that he received from others.

    “The weapon of grace stood out to me,” Wright said. “I’ve been through a lot and the response from other people can be very helpful in healing.”

    Suicide takes the lives of hundreds of service members and veterans every year. Estes reminded the service members in the auditorium to think about others that may be impacted by their decisions before they take such drastic steps.

    “He made me realize you need to think about what you’re about to do before you do it,” said Army Spc. Darrel Brown, chaplain assistant with the 377th TSC. “Decisions impact everyone around you – family, friends, strangers.”



    Date Taken: 09.15.2017
    Date Posted: 09.25.2017 11:50
    Story ID: 249030
    Location: BELLE CHASE, LA, US

    Web Views: 102
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