During his fourth deployment, US Marine Corps Sergeant Carlos Evans stepped on an IEDand the loss of both legs and his left hand was just the beginning of the struggle for his life.
For the next two years, he and his wife, Rosemarie, went through the rehabilitation process together. As a nurse and mother of two young children, Rosemarie was used to caring for people, but the task of taking care of her triple-amputee husband brought new challenges every day. In addition to his limb loss, Carlos faced PTSD and developed an addiction to painkillers. He was sure Rosemarie's life would be better without himand that it might have been better if he hadn't survived at all.
But unlike the majority of marriages put under similar strain, Carlos and Rosemarie stayed together. With the help of family, friends, andmost importantlya strong faith, they've built a solid marriage and discovered a ministry they never expected. By the hand of God, their story, which began in devastation, has turned into one that draws in and lifts up more people than either of them would ever have dreamed.
Not only will disabled veterans and their loved ones find help here, Carlos and Rosemarie's captivating journey also speaks to those who long for stronger marriages, care for loved ones with disabilities, or are facing a new normal in their own lives, small or large. It is a powerful resource for leaning on God in the midst of life's great difficultiesand for finding ways that, through faith, profound loss can bring incredible blessing.
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About the Author
Rosemarie Evans, an experienced nurse, is now a full-time caregiver and student working toward a master's degree in marriage and family from Liberty University. Carlos and Rosemarie live in Orlando, Florida.
Cecil Murphey has written or coauthored more than one hundred books, including the autobiography of Franklin Graham, Rebel with a Cause and the New York Times best-seller 90 Minutes in Heaven. Cecil lives in Georgia.
Read an Excerpt
The Phone Call
Even though he couldn't call often, the phone call on Saturday, May 15, 2010, from Carlos was different from any of the others. Afterward, I couldn't stop crying.
He was on his fourth deployment, this time in Afghanistan. The previous three deployments had been in Iraq. Because of the time difference — they were nine and a half hours ahead of us in Fajardo, Puerto Rico — I was never surprised when he called at strange hours. I was so glad to hear from him, I didn't care if it was the middle of the night. Each call meant he was safe, and I was relieved.
I had flown to Puerto Rico, and that Saturday I had gone out of town for my uncle's wedding. Now, back at my mother's, I was putting both daughters to bed. My cell rang. Caller ID showed me it was a strange number, such as 1111111111, so I knew it was Carlos.
"Hey, baby, how are you?" I asked.
His voice sounded flat, unlike him. I was excited to hear from him, yet his tone upset me. "Baby, are you okay?"
"Everything here is different than before."
That was an odd thing for him to say and nothing like the usual upbeat Carlos. After a pause, he said, "You know I love you, don't you? You know that you and my daughters are the most important part of my life."
"Yes," I said, "and you're the most important person in my life."
What's wrong? What isn't he telling me?
"Everything is different here, but I'm thinking about you all the time." Then he repeated, "You're the most important person in my life."
The phone went dead.
Why did he hang up? What's happened to him? Why was he talking that way? Was he saying goodbye to me? Is he in the hospital? Has he been badly wounded?
My tears flowed. I couldn't call him back because I didn't know his number. All night long I couldn't stop crying. I'd fall asleep for a few minutes and wake up sobbing. No, dear Lord, don't ... don't let him die.
All the next day I waited for my cell to ring, but no calls came from Carlos. I didn't cry as much, but I fretted. I couldn't focus clearly on things I had to do because I kept hearing that sad tone in his voice. Then I would cry out to God to take care of him. For a short time I'd feel at peace, but minutes later I'd worry about him again.
Before going out of town, I had made a number of things to mail to Carlos, such as a photo blanket collage and a photo dog tag with our wedding picture, and I put photographs of the girls and me in an album. Our anniversary was a month away, and I wanted him to have those things because he was away from us. Father's Day was also in June, and I wanted it to be a special occasion for him and a reminder of how much we loved and missed him.
After the phone call, I didn't know if I should mail the package or not. Finally I pushed away my negative thoughts about Carlos. If he had been badly injured or worse, the Marine Corps would have notified me. No notification must mean he was all right.
I kept repeating those words to myself. Slowly I calmed down and was able to focus on making him happy. Once Carlos receives the package, I told myself several times, he'll be reminded that we love him, and we didn't forget him while he was gone.
I thought of Carlos's mother, Virginia Evans, who also lived in Fajardo, Puerto Rico. I had worked hard on the blanket and decided to show her everything I was going to send him. I drove to her house that day on my way to the post office.
Virginia smiled as she examined the contents. "Oh, this is all so pretty." She picked up the blanket and the photographs one by one and assured me that her son would like everything.
After I expressed my concern over the telephone call, she hugged me and assured me that Carlos was fine and reminded me, "He's in God's hands."
"I know." Being with Virginia often eased my concern about Carlos's safety.
I sealed the package and drove to the post office. Before I got there, my cell rang. It was a local number that I didn't recognize. "Hello," I said.
"Is your name Rosemarie Evans?" a man asked.
"Yes, it's me."
He identified himself as being with the Marine Corps.
After that I don't remember anything else until he added.
"We're in front of your mother-in-law's house. We need you to come back immediately."
They knew how to reach me because earlier that morning I had received a call from the Family Support Program in Camp Lejeune at Jacksonville, North Carolina. The caller asked me how I was doing and where I was staying. I gave him the address of my mother-in-law.
"What's wrong?" My voice was shaking, but I couldn't stop it.
"We're waiting for you," he said. "We'll explain when you get here."
"No! No!" I yelled before I hung up. They had terrible news to tell me. Carlos is dead. That's why he called yesterday. He was dying.
More than once my husband had said, "If you see marines in front of the house, they're going to tell you bad news."
As I drove back, I thought of what I'd seen in movies when two military officers knocked on the door. Only the year before, Carlos and I had watched the film Taking Chance, in which the body of Lance Corporal Chance Phelps, an Iraq war casualty, is escorted home by Marine Colonel Michael Strobl (played by Kevin Bacon).
Carlos is dead. I was crying so hard that several times I had to brush away tears so I could see well enough to drive. I kept screaming, "No! No! Not Carlos!"
When I reached Virginia's house, three marines stood next to a government car in front. I parked my car, ignored them, and rushed up to the house. It sounds silly now, but it was as if I didn't have to talk to them in order to know my Carlos was gone.
I started knocking on the door and yelling, "Virginia!"
She opened the door, shocked at seeing me. "Why have you come back so fast? Why are you crying?"
"Virginia, they're here! They're here!"
Virginia shook her head, confused. "Who's here?"
I turned and pointed to the marines in dress uniform who were walking up the driveway.
Then she knew.
Virginia grabbed me, and we both cried uncontrollably for several seconds. The three men stood in front of us, saying nothing.
As soon as we calmed down a little, one of them said, "May we come inside?"
Virginia nodded and opened the door for them.
Once inside, one of them looked straight at me before he said, "Mrs. Evans, we are here because we have to notify you that your husband was on foot patrol. He stepped on a bomb, on an IED —"
"Is he — is he dead?"
"He lost both legs instantly, and we cannot assure you whether he is still alive."
I was so emotionally overwrought that I heard only "lost both legs."
"Is my son still alive?" Virginia asked.
"We do not know," the man said softly. "He was badly hurt, and doctors have been trying to assess his wounds."
"We came to prepare you," said one of them, who identified himself as a chaplain. "Because of the time difference, we need you to get prepared for the worst — for everything."
I started crying again, and this time I stopped thinking about myself or missing him but thought instead of how much Carlos must be hurting. I'm a nurse and had recently updated my certificate and received my license for pre-hospital trauma life support. The course had focused on accidents outside the hospital and included studies on people who had lost arms and legs after blasts such as explosions or bombs. I knew too much to listen objectively.
My whole system went numb. My tears continued to flow, but I couldn't think or say anything as I stared at them.
Then the chaplain began to pray and pulled me back to reality. His voice sounded like someone speaking with authority and compassion.
One man had given me the bad news, and now the second was asking God to give me the strength to bear it, no matter what happened. His powerful words calmed me, and I was able to stop crying.
As soon as the marines left, I called my dad and other family members. All of us are Puerto Rican and part of a closely knit family. I didn't trust myself to drive to my house, so I asked Dad to come over to take me to his home. My mother was taking care of my two daughters.
When we reached my parents' house, Mom saw my face and asked, "What happened to you?"
"Carlos was injured and ..." I broke down, and between convulsive sobs, I told her everything.
Mom held me and started praying. Afterward she said, "I'll take care of the girls. You take care of yourself."
Within an hour, the word had spread among our family and close friends, and the house filled with relatives and church members. Many were kneeling or standing as they prayed. I looked around, grateful to God that we had a wonderful support system. As more family and friends arrived, I began to feel better.
With God's help and the support of my friends, I can survive this.
I reminded myself, Carlos is still alive. He may not have legs, but he'll still be Carlos. He's the only man I have ever loved. Each time tears came, someone seemed to grab me and pray for me.
"Don't believe Carlos will die," more than one person said.
"Trust God, and we're all believing for the Lord to spare him."
Others promised they would come to see me every day to pray with me and to let me know they were with me in my pain.
The first time I heard those words, I didn't want to inconvenience them. "You don't have to come. You can call me —"
"No! I want to be here — to see you face-to-face," one friend said. "I can't do that by phone."
Then everyone was gone. I waited and prayed. Time seemed to drag by, and I frequently checked my phone to make sure the sound was on and that it was fully charged.
When I was finally alone, with my two daughters asleep, God's peace came over me and I slept.
* * *
The next day, a marine officer called and said matter-off-actly, "We can say nothing by phone. Please wait at the Diaz home for us to inform you of the circumstances." They didn't say when they would come.
I clung to the fact that he used the word circumstances instead of saying Carlos had been killed. I was filled with anxiety, wanting to know, and many times gave way to tears. Finally, about five o'clock, they arrived. By that time, once again the house had filled up with family members and friends.
"Is he — is he alive?" Carlos's mother asked.
"Yes, as far as we know," one of them said.
"Everything remains the same," the marine liaison said.
"Your husband is still at the military hospital, Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany."
They had nothing more to tell me and left.
* * *
True to their word, those friends and relatives who promised to visit me each day came to see me. Their prayers and encouragement comforted me, but I still had no real answers.
Carlos was alive, but ...
"No! He's alive!" I shouted. "He is alive." I cried off and on through the night. I was such a mess that I couldn't take care of Nairoby, who was three years old, and Genesis, who was barely at the crawling stage. I finally called my mother, and she took care of our two children. That made me feel guilty, but I wasn't emotionally able to give them what they needed. I couldn't eat, and I slept little. I felt deep pain in my heart that wouldn't let go.
The next day, about the same time, the same marines came. When I saw their faces, I started to cry again.
Then the first marine smiled.
That's when I knew my husband was still alive.CHAPTER 2
The Left Handprint
After six years in the Marine Corps, I was on my fourth deployment as a squad leader in Afghanistan. Most of the time we did foot patrols. On May 15, 2010, however, we drove to our next mission to set up a security post, and this time I was the squad leader of a vehicle patrol. As we did each day, we were driving a Humvee around the area, searching for unsuspected activity and IEDs. Technically the vehicle was called a High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV), a four-wheel drive military light truck. We frequently faced combat and never knew when we'd be engaged, so we drove slowly and carefully.
Without warning, my body was thrown forward. An explosive noise filled my ears. We had driven over an IED.
Everything went black.
For a few seconds I must have been unconscious, and then I revived. I was relieved that I felt no pain. My driver and the gunner were both unconscious, and when they came to, they were in shock. I called every man by name, and each said, "Okay," or "Fine."
Once certain that everyone was all right, I got out of the vehicle. I was amazed that we had run over an IED and none of us sustained injuries. I called for support — we needed to get transport back to base because our vehicle had been too badly damaged to drive.
I knew of too many incidents of Humvees hitting IEDs in which one or more of those inside the vehicle died or were badly wounded. Right then, I stopped and prayed silently.
"Oh God, I could have lost my life. Thank you, thank you for taking care of all of us."
I was grateful to be alive, and I tried to keep my mind free of what might have been. After we returned to base camp, I kept thinking that I might not have returned. That explosion was the closest I had come to physical injury. I turned my thoughts to Rosemarie and how grateful I was to be alive and to have such a godly wife.
I needed someone to talk to, and I missed my wife. I was alive, grateful, and rejoicing, and I yearned to hear her voice.
I don't recall ever being more emotional or feeling so alone and in need of my family.
I called Rosemarie. I didn't tell her about the narrow escape with the IED explosion. "It doesn't matter what happens to me here, I want you to always know how much I love you."
Those were my last words because the battery on my satellite phone died without warning. While I charged it, I decided to write her a letter telling her how much I loved her and missed her.
I stopped and stared at the wedding ring on my left hand.
That was a powerful moment for me because the ring symbolized my devotion and commitment. I'll always be here for you, Rosemarie.
I'm not sure why, but I decided to make a photocopy of my left hand, where I normally wore my wedding ring. On the corner of the photo, I wrote, "This is so you know when I'm not here you can look at my hand, you can look at my wedding ring and know how much I love you, that I'm always going to be here for you."
As I stared at the photocopy, I carefully sketched my wife and two kids on my hand. It was my way to say, "It doesn't matter what happens, we're always going to be together, and I love you."
I finished the letter, enclosed the photocopy, and put the envelope in the outgoing mail.
During that deployment and the three previous ones, until the day of the explosion, I don't think I ever considered that anything was going to happen to me. I personally knew others who had died and some who were badly wounded, but as a Christian, I figured God was with me and would protect me from every kind of harm.
On my various furloughs, I said to friends and family members, "I'm not going to die in Iraq or Afghanistan. God has a bigger purpose for my life."
* * *
The day after I wrote the letter to Rosemarie, our squad went out on foot patrol. We were in firefights almost every day, so there was heavy combat while we were there, but none close to us. Besides my squad, we also had plenty of support with us. As we went out, I prayed as I usually did before going on foot patrol, asking God to protect us and bring us all back safely. As we left base, I felt confident. I felt very good.
That morning I led eighteen men on foot patrol. We found two IEDs, which Staff Sergeant David Lyon deactivated.
Lyon was a specialist in explosive ordinance detection (EOD) and was excellent at locating and deactivating IEDs before we walked on them or our vehicles drove over them. We also had a trained dog with us who was good at sniffing out IEDs. Lyon and the others had gotten good at mastering their equipment. After they found the first two bombs, all of us in the squad seemed more confident.
After a time, it seemed we were on safe ground, so the EOD people left us and went with another squad in a different direction. I was all right with their leaving, but I called out to Lyon, "I'm probably going to call you back because I know we're going to find more IEDs."
A few minutes later, we went into a deserted house and found several IEDs, so I called David Lyon, who had also become a good friend. "I told you I would probably call you back. We've located more IEDs. You've got to deactivate them."
Lyon came and did his work. While he was doing that, I got on the radio with my commanding officer (CO). As I stood outside the house, I spotted something suspicious in the area and told him. "Before we return to base, we'll check it out," Lyon said.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Standing Together"
Copyright © 2019 Carlos R. Evans and Rosemarie Evans.
Excerpted by permission of Kregel Publications.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1 The Phone Call 9
2 The Left Handprint 17
3 Alive! 25
4 Alive … But 31
5 This Is Progress? 37
6 The Way It Used to Be 43
7 Finding Comfort 47
8 How Much Can I Take? 59
9 Up and Down 63
10 A Family United 69
11 What Kind of Man Am I? 77
12 The Problem Was Carlos 83
13 Deep Healing 93
14 Trying to Walk 101
15 Swimming with Dolphins 107
16 Ski Trip 117
17 Kicking the Addiction 123
18 Mysterious Bottle 129
19 Others' Marriages 135
20 Return to Our House 139
21 Our Marriage Almost Failed 143
22 Beyond the Wheelchair 153
23 Marathon Man 161
24 Marine Marathon 167
25 Operation Coming Home 175
26 A Dog Named Dino 183
27 Adjustments 187
28 Doors Opening Wide 203
29 Ecuador and Beyond 209
30 A Man with a Purpose 215
31 Traveling the World 223
32 Polar Plunge 229
33 Celebration in Fayetteville 235
34 Summing Up 241
Appendix: A Few Facts About Marriages of Wounded Warriors 245