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Blind woman prepares for husband’s first deployment

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Luke Johnson
  • 943rd Rescue Group Public Affairs
An upcoming first-time deployment poses special challenges for an Air Force reservist and his wife, who has just 10 percent of her vision left.

"On a personal and emotional level, it's a much bigger deal than I'm allowing myself to think it is," said Leah Martinson, wife of Senior Airman Eric Martinson of the 934th Maintenance Squadron at Minneapolis-St. Paul Air Reserve Station, Minn. "I've been trying to be tough and tell myself that it's not a big deal, you are fine and quit whining about it."

The Martinsons were among more than 500 people who attended Aug. 24-25 training in California through the Reserve's Yellow Ribbon Program, which promotes the well-being of reservists and their families by connecting them with resources before and after deployments.

"A lot of people have been through it; there are a lot more resources than I thought," said Leah Martinson, who was born with a genetic progressive vision loss disease.

Prior to getting married, she lived on her own for 12 years, yet she still has some reservations about being without her husband while he is deployed.

"This will be my first time living in house by myself. I've always lived in apartments, and I only rented a room in a house once."

The Martinsons live in an older home and recently the house started to show its age.

"We've only been in the house a year-and-a-half, and we are learning the quirks of the house.
We learned about a lot of them this summer," said Mrs. Martinson.

Her husband usually takes care of all household repairs, yet during the Airman's deployment her father, a general contractor, and brother will be available to help her.

"If a repair is done, I'm worried that I may not notice it right away, because it might be a visual thing, and it may become a bigger issue. I do know that there are a lot of blind people that live in homes alone," she said.

One of the foremost challenges will be coordinating her daily routines that most sighted people take for granted and the support required for each one, she said.

"I've got to plan every day in advance, like when I'm going to the grocery store and who will help me with that, along with all of the daily day-to-day stuff I need to accomplish."

She will rely on neighbors, friends and family for assistance and, as part of deployment preparation, she is learning how to take care of tasks normally handled by her husband. A volunteer from the Training Center for the Blind will help her with reading mail and completing other daily errands.

"All summer, I've been learning how to pay the bills and learning how all of our finances are set up," she said. "I've even learned how to mow the lawn. It does not look good, but it gets done."
Eric Martinson ensured his wife has all the critical information she will need while he is gone in an easily accessible format.

"We've even got some weddings that we were invited to, so I've assigned some friends to take her," he said.

The Airman said that he shows love toward his spouse through serving her to the best of his abilities.

"I like doing things for her. I want to make sure she gets to where she needs to go while I'm gone and she has everything she needs," he said. "I know that there are plenty of people to help her when I'm (away), and I can make something happen for her even though I'll be on the other side of the world."

The Martinsons agreed there is a lot of support and resources available through the Yellow Ribbon program; however, they said the emotional aspect of being apart will be difficult.

"Emotionally,(there's) not much we can do," said Eric Martinson. "We can try and predict all of the financial stuff and what could happen, and she is aware of all the resources that can help her if needed."

Yellow Ribbon began in 2008 following a congressional mandate for the Department of Defense to assist reservists and National Guard members in maintaining resiliency as they transition between their military and civilian roles. Each year, the Air Force Reserve program trains 6,000 reservists and guests in education benefits, health care, retirement information and more.