USO conference offers caregiver support
Posted September 15, 2011 5:06 p.m. EDT
Updated September 15, 2011 6:26 p.m. EDT
Fort Bragg, N.C. — Retired Army Staff Sgt. Scott Stephenson went to Iraq in 2006. While there, he was badly burned when a roadside bomb exploded.
In addition to burns to more than 66 percent of his body, Stephenson lost his left leg and had internal wounds. He has suffered strokes and depression.
But Stephenson said his family, specifically his mother, Laura Schneider, carried him through.
"Just because we look different, we're the same people. Don't shy away or look away from us. Come up and hear our story, what's been done to us. Don't be afraid," Stephenson said during the second annual USO Wounded Warrior Family and Caregivers Conference at Fort Bragg on Thursday.
Stephenson said he knows his condition has been hard for his mother, who is his primary caregiver, and he wanted to help other caregivers at the conference deal with issues like emotional stress.
Lynette Bannerman cares for her husband, Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Bannerman. The Army Reservist suffered a stroke during a non-combat related hospital procedure in 2009. She said attending the conference helped show her that she isn't alone.
"Somebody putting their own needs aside for someone else, a lot of their needs can be just as great," Sgt. Carlton Duncan said.
Duncan suffered a head injury after an ambush in Iraq.
Duncan said he hopes he can impart what he learned at the seminar to other soldiers who have struggled in their recovery. “That’s kind of what motivates me and drives me to keep pushing on," he said.
In addition to caregiver support, the conference also covered issues such as suicide and depression.
"There's a lot of guys who stay low under the radar. They're depressed. They don't let anybody know," Stephenson said. “Because we’re already losing enough of them over there, we don’t need them coming home and losing more here."