Jennie Hendrickson was filled with gratitude and emotion on the day she and her husband, Navy PO3 Justin Hendrickson, received the keys to their new specially adapted custom home in Pennsylvania, Aug. 3, 2019. In her speech below, she shares her deep appreciation for Justin and how much their new home means for their future.
“I am so proud to be married to someone who is so patient, so kind and so loving. Justin and I have been married for 12 years. Some days have been good, and some days haven’t. But we carry every day with us because this makes us how we are today; honestly, I wouldn’t want it to be any different. God blessed both of us with second chances at a new life.
Today, I want to speak not as a home recipient and not as Justin’s wife, but as a person who has watched this man grow; who has succeeded, who has taken his very hard past and turned it into his future to teach others. Justin has endured things that I could never imagine. Yes, I survived brain cancer and am now in remission, but he had to take care of me and everything in our house. In a marriage, this is probably the worst-case scenario for your spouse. And it hurt me to know that here he is, fighting again for something, and for someone, just like I had to.
While he was in the Navy serving with Marines as a corpsman, I can’t relate to the thought of having friends that are a part of a close knit bond, a brotherhood, and they would fight and die for each other if that time had to come. That is foreign to us civilians unless you have seen war. Being in the military was the freedom Justin needed to see the world, and to see the world differently now than the rest of us do.
In the midst of having so much to go through when Justin was injured, is something that many Veterans still have to go through today. Can you imagine, let alone understand, what that must have been like, and then to try to put all of that to rest? Many Veterans never leave the destruction, never leave the death of their friends, and are forced to save all the PTSD that comes with it for when they get out. Justin lost one of his friends that day and he was not able to help him because of his wounds. He directed everyone to hold their ground, with everyone injured and they made it out – I cannot imagine what it takes to find any sort of strength in the face of danger and possible death. Justin has seen and been through so much. Justin – you have honor.
Justin graduated with a bachelor’s degree in nursing and a master’s degree in education and leadership. He works two jobs. Three times a year he is asked to teach second year military students at the Wounded Warrior Panel at Walter Reed. I hear his story from Iraq every time he is in the classroom. He teaches others about what happened to him physically, mentally, and medically, and what these students from every branch of the military should be thinking about now as they learn and grow. You can see that he makes a big impact to them and you know that they won’t forget what he taught them.
He has been and will always be successful because he is so driven and appreciates the life he has. He is a very positive person. He always wants to make things better, and easier. He is definitely someone to look up to. He has an old soul and is very wise beyond his years. I have learned so much from Justin. Sometimes, I wonder why he chose me to be his wife. I am a simple woman, and Justin likes to stir things up a bit.
Justin, thank you for being someone that we all can look up to…to teach us, to understand, to love and for the endless possibilities that you show and share with others. That, anyone’s life isn’t just for settling. There is way more out there in the world than people can think of and showing people not to be scared and go for it! Thank you for thinking outside the box, always – even though I give you the side eye with a smile when you come up with your crazy ideas. Thank you for sharing and for challenging me and others. Thank you for, being honest, true to yourself and making people laugh. The world needs more people like you! And most of all, thank you for loving me. Because even though I tried to keep this letter ‘unbiased,’ you need to know that so many people here love you, and I most of all. I thank our Heavenly Father for you every night when I pray. You are my life, my love, my strength and my everything. We’ve helped each other through our worst times and have celebrated during the best times. HFOT is giving us a new chapter, and I am gladly taking this next step with open arms and new possibilities with you. I love you always and forever. Thank you for being you.”