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Spc. Terri Francis toughs it out

Injured soldier gives props to Bates and Wounded Warrior Project

Spc. Terri Francis concentrates on machinery to ease her injuries sustained in Afghanistan. Courtesy photo

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Spc. Terri Francis, 27, is tenacious. The soldier, who grew up on an Apache reservation in New Mexico, became a single mother at age 17 and obtained her GED because she knew that without a high school credential, she wouldn't be able to earn enough for her family.

In 2006, she enlisted in the National Guard and by 2009 she'd transferred into the active-duty Army. During a 2011 deployment with the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division out of Ft. Knox, she sustained major injuries and was medevaced out of Afghanistan. After 14 months of recovery and multiple surgeries, Francis convinced doctors that she was ready to return to a regular unit and was assigned to the 308th Brigade Support Battalion at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Unfortunately, after 10 months back at work, she realized she was struggling to keep up and was still in constant pain. A meeting with doctors confirmed that she was no longer "physically or mentally capable of doing a soldier's work" that was required and so the retirement process began.

"It's hard to think that it will be over and that I don't know what is next," she said. "I'm used to standing on my own two feet."

With that in mind, Francis decided to enroll in the Bates Technical College machinist program, through which she will gain an Associate degree in applied science upon completion. She'd previously received machinist training in the Army and knew that it was a good fit for her.

Initially, Francis reports that the VA did not want her to pursue the program because they thought it would be too much stress on her body; however, she persevered, obtained funding and enrolled in the program May 2013.

"The instructors at Bates have been great and working with me to understand the military and my schedule," said Francis, who often starts her day at 4 a.m. and doesn't relax again until at least 10 p.m. "I am trying my best to keep up, but I admit it's rough."

Although the machinist program is full-time, Francis will take a little longer to graduate due to her other obligations as a soldier, wife and mother; not to mention the chronic issues that still flare up, including memory lapses and constant headaches, which can make day-to-day tasks harder.

"Sometimes the injuries do bother me, but luckily in the machinist shop I can focus on just that and not pay attention to anything else. Its when I can zone out," Francis shared.

While Francis is undoubtedly self-motivated, she is quick to give credit to both the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP), for which she continues to volunteer, as well as her family.

"The WWP has been great and helped me tremendously - whether I am stressed and need someone to talk to or there were events that pushed me out the door when I wanted to just hide inside," she said. "Now I am slowly moving back into the active part of life."

In November, Francis will be medically retired from the Army. Then, following her graduation from Bates Technical College in May, the hope is that she can find employment with a company like Boeing or Aerospace since they would provide her with the ability to transfer in case her newlywed husband, an active-duty soldier, receives orders.

"When I want to give up I think about my husband and my two kids and realize that I am doing this for my family so we can have everything we need," Francis concluded.

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