SFC Tara Hutchinson

Tara Hutchinson

Valentine’s Day will always be an important day to Sergeant First Class Tara Hutchinson. On Feb. 14, 2006, she was on her first deployment serving with the 463rd Military Police Company in Iraq when her truck was hit by an improvised explosive device (IED). The blast resulted in the immediate amputation of her right leg and a traumatic brain injury (TBI). Most people would not celebrate this day, but Tara considers it her second “birthday” since she survived.

In recovery, Tara battled depression. Her brain injury manifested itself as Parkinson’s-like symptoms and she had to relearn to do even the simplest things and she experienced difficulty using her hands. Tara pushed through her recovery and, on the recommendation of her occupational therapist, picked up jewelry making as a hobby to improve her fine motor skills.

Now medically retired, jewelry has become Tara’s passion. After being injured, she says she did not feel human enough to even go to the grocery store and she contemplated suicide because of the social stigma of her injury. Making jewelry is what helped her through this difficult period. Her new mission in life is “to make women feel beautiful, since I know what it’s like to not feel that way.” Her business gives her purpose, and allows her to express her artistry. The open floorplan and extra space in a specially adapted custom Homes For Our Troops home will allow Tara to expand her business. The financial freedom of not having to pay a mortgage will allow her to complete her degree as a graduate gemologist from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA).

Additionally, Tara is also looking forward to doing simple things like making a cup of coffee and cleaning her bathroom in the new home. In her current living situation, Tara often gets her wheelchair stuck while turning around in her kitchen, and she is constantly bumping into cabinets and doorways. “That feeling of helplessness will be immediately transformed into independence,” she says.

Tara is grateful to HFOT’s donors and supporters. “Homes For Our Troops helps my warrior brothers and sisters who have been injured have a meaningful and purposeful life,” she says.