ARLINGTON, Virginia (October 7, 2022)- - Ten years ago, Sgt. Erica Jennings joined the Army to have structure in her life and see the world.
“I just wanted to get out of Alabama and see what I could do. I was a ninety-two whiskey which is a water purification supervisor and I definitely saw the world,” said Jennings. From Joint Base Lewis McChord to Korea and Germany, Jennings’ assignments afforded her the chance to experience many wonderful things.
On her most recent overseas assignment in Germany, she was a passenger on the back of a motorcycle. “I was in a motorcycle accident and flew off the back making a hard impact,” said Jennings.
Something happened to the bike to make the driver lose control. Jennings sustained a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), broken ankle, dislocated hip, cuts, and bruises. “It was a traumatic situation I only had a 20% chance of survival. It was a huge decision my husband had to make,” said Jennings whose husband was also stationed overseas with his civilian job but in a different country. “I had to have half my skull removed and I now have a titanium plate on that side,” she said explaining what Cranioplasty Surgery entailed. The after-effect would be, that she would need to wear a helmet for some time to protect her skull.
The accident happened on August 26, 2019. Jennings doesn’t remember any of it and in fact didn’t open her eyes until September 12, 2019. “I thought I was having a dream.” She already was in the states by then having had the two surgeries. She started her recovery in Palo Alto California and continued at Walter Reed before selecting to move to the Fort Stewart Soldier Recovery Unit. “I picked Fort Stewart because it was between South Carolina where I was born, and Alabama where I was raised, and those areas are where my support system would come from,” said Jennings.
She entered the Fort Stewart SRU in March of 2020 and had to learn how to function all over again. Through the programs at the SRU she slowly but surely improved. She was delighted to learn she qualified as Return to Duty (RTD) after having gone through a year of rehab. She also learned something that would further change her life the day of her celebration for being Return to Duty.
“It was a ball of emotions all at once. I reenlisted the day after my ten-year anniversary, and I was Return to Duty and then…found out I was pregnant,” she said excitedly as her wish was always that she and her husband could have a baby.
“We’ve been trying for a baby for ten years and the first question I asked after I was awake from the accident was would this have an effect on me having a baby.”
With the great news of being RTD, reenlisted and now a baby came the unexpected news that she could not go back to her regular job in the Army.
“There’s a regulation that once you are pregnant you can’t move or relocate within a year of the birth of your baby. So, I’m not able to relocate until March 2023. So, since I completed my recovery, and was RTD they put me down as Cadre and I love it,” says the now training room NCO for the Fort Stewart SRU.
This role she says is a perfect fit for her being able to give first-hand knowledge to the Soldiers. “I’ve been there. I had moments where I was down on myself at the SRU and needed that little push, and I got it. I try to put myself back in their shoes. I did not know this program existed until I needed it,” said Jennings.
She encourages Soldiers to work hard, trust in God and never give up.
“It’s not over. I still feel like I have a purpose in the Army and I’m happy I can stay and instill in my Soldiers whatever it is I can. I’m still in the fight…it’s a great feeling.”