Military to Civilian Transition

How to Cope When The One You Married Changes Forever

By Hope For The Warriors

Life-long sweethearts Brittany and Aaron Zurn from Dayton, Ohio, could never have imagined the turn their life would take when Aaron returned home from deployment with multiple serious injuries.

During his 10 1/2 years in the Marines Corps and Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command (MARSOC), Aaron was deployed four times – twice to Afghanistan and twice to Iraq.

In 2012, he was injured after his team was ambushed. During the attack, Aaron sacrificed himself, allowing his team to get away. He was awarded the Navy Achievement Medal and Navy Accommodations Medal both with a bronze V (valor).

But he sustained several injuries from the incident and, upon his return home, developed a dependency on alcohol.

In 2014, Aaron was deployed again to Afghanistan, where he sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) after falling from a helicopter during a combat mission. Then on the day he was being processed out, one of his friends was killed and another was injured during an attack. This was yet another blow to Aaron’s recovery, causing him to suffer severe survivor’s guilt. He was placed on limited duty while he recovered and experienced a mental breakdown due to the stress of everything that had occurred during his deployments.

Becoming a Caregiver

Aaron and Brittany refer to Sept. 17, 2014, as his “live day” because on that day he completely gave up drinking. Brittany continued to advocate for Aaron to ensure he received the treatment he so desperately needed.

“Very few of the injuries he sustained during his time in the Marine Corps were actually documented,” she said. “After his mental breakdown, they just wanted to process him out, but I fought for him to get the treatment he needed.” Today, Aaron is 100 percent disabled due to post traumatic stress disorder and TBI, which causes him to have the mental capacity of a 13-year-old.

“When he came home I knew in my heart of hearts that his career was over. The catch was that my husband didn’t. I had to end his career for him…that was a battle neither of us was ready to face,” she said. “Sometimes, as a spouse, you have to know when they are too broken to advocate for themselves.”

But through it all Brittany has remained at his side, her role evolving from spouse and mother, to also caretaker.

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