Turning tragedy into achievement, veteran siblings push each other toward new goals
Kevin Trimble’s life changed forever on September 18, 2011. A private in the army, his unit was sweeping a village in Afghanistan for IEDs when, as he puts it, they found one the hard way. Specialist Ryan James Cook, the soldier who stepped on the IED, died immediately. Kevin was standing eleven feet away and lost both legs and his left arm.
Minutes later, on the other side of the ocean, his sister, Deborah Trimble, answered her phone. A military police officer with the Air Force, she was her brother’s emergency contact, and she tried to understand what the sergeant at the other end of the line was telling her. Her brother was still on his way to the hospital, and the extent of his injuries was not yet clear.
Kevin and Deborah are two of the veterans who will be telling their stories at the second-annual Service Above Self—Honoring Our Veterans event, this Wednesday, Nov. 9 at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor. They will be joined by veterans of other wars, including World War II and the Vietnam War, all of whom will share their powerful first-hand accounts of serving in the armed forces.
The event aims to raise money for Michigan’s first Fisher House, which provide free or low-cost housing for veterans and their families while a loved one receives treatment.
The Trimbles know exactly how important a Fisher House can be during a difficult rehabilitation process. Kevin, Deborah, and the rest of their family stayed in a Fischer House for six months after Kevin returned to the U.S. from Afghanistan.
Kevin told Stateside that being around other veterans who were also going through rehabilitation helped him get through his own rehab process. “When you deal with struggles in an environment with people who are dealing with the same ones, it helps everyone cope,” he said.
For Deborah, Kevin’s treatment and recovery served as an inspiration. She had been had been considering a career in law enforcement when she left the Air Force. But she soon decided to pursue a new goal.
“After the experience with him in the hospital, with his health care team, it really opened my eyes. It changed my life too,” she said. “I thought it would be more impactful to go into medicine and give back some of what the healthcare team was able to give to us.
Today, Deborah is a Tillman Scholar at the University of Michigan medical school. Inspired by her brother’s orthopedic surgeon, with whom Kevin is still close, she hopes to pursue a focus in orthopedic medicine. And she has a simple message for everyone who hears her story: “It’s never too late to pursue the goals in your life.”
Meanwhile, Kevin works in IT with data company Rackspace. He also helps various organizations fight veteran suicide. And, he works with Adaptive Training Foundation, a group that helps people rehabilitate after severe injuries.
Listen to our full interview with Kevin and Deborah Trimble above.