Fighting for those who've served
By Jaime Charlson
Defense Finance and Accounting Service, Indianapolis, IN
Garrett Anderson joined the Army in 2005, following in the footsteps of many men in his family who have served in the military in past years.
“I felt it was my duty to support and defend the country I love so much,” Garrett said. It was a decision that came easily to him, and also a decision that would change the course of his life.
Garrett was stationed in Iraq, in a “hot zone” filled with the threat of IEDs (improvised explosive devices).
Garrett remembers watching a striking sunrise over a masque on October 15, 2005.That afternoon, he was part of a convoy of three trucks, tasked with investigating a potential threat. Just when Garrett and his team thought they were in the clear, an IED exploded right through their convoy. Garrett’s truck was hit directly.
“My first instinct was to fight, to seek and destroy the enemy, but I could barely see through the cloud of dust and gunpowder,” explained Garrett.
With all the rage and adrenaline pumping through him, Garrett didn’t immediately realize that his arm was missing or that he could barely breathe due to the hole in his jaw.
Anderson was placed in a medically induced coma and sent to the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. While medical teams focused on Garrett, an on-site Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) team started through a checklist of actions that needed to be completed in order to ensure Garrett would continue to receive compensation.
Next, Garrett was sent to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center where he woke from his coma and was met by a second DFAS team.
“I remember DFAS meeting me and my wife, Sam, at my bedside to give us a breakdown of our finances and to answer our questions. Sam had to take on the responsibility of making sure our bills were paid, while being a full-time caregiver for me during the eight months we were at Walter Reed,” Garrett said.
When a Soldier is injured, the entire family is affected.
“I was in shock,” Sam said. “I don’t think it fully hit me until I saw him in person. He didn’t look like himself. It was a lot to handle emotionally, and at the same time, I had a lot of decisions to make.”
Sam quickly made the commitment to put her life on hold, withdrawing from the law school she was enrolled in, in order to be a full-time caregiver for Garrett. DFAS immediately sought Sam out to register her for caregiver income, which was delivered on time each month.
While Sam’s new role was overwhelming, she never had to worry about finances. “Garrett’s pay was automatically deposited,” she said. “It was stable and dependable. I had a lot to deal with, so I was thankful to not have to worry about money.”
Today, Garrett wears a prosthetic arm and doesn’t let his injury hold him back. He found a new way to fulfill his goal of serving our nation. Garrett currently serves on the Veteran and Military Affairs staff for an Illinois congressman in Champaign, IL, where he files inquiries on behalf for veterans who have problems with their VA claims.
“Being a soldier was a lifelong dream of mine,” Garrett said. “I am able to continue fulfilling that dream every day by fighting on a new battlefield for those who have served.”
Garrett works directly with DFAS to obtain information for the veterans he represents. “DFAS is always very helpful. Even when I call the general customer service hotline, they are responsive and get right back to me with the information I need. DFAS is a service-based organization with the knowledge and relationships to help soldiers.”
The mission of DFAS is to support the warfighters by ensuring the delivery of “efficient exceptional quality pay and financial information.” DFAS pays all DoD military and civilian personnel, retirees and annuitants, as well as major DoD contractors and vendors.
“The people who work for DFAS aren’t just there for a pay check” Anderson said. “They are there to accomplish a greater goal. They are there as part of a greater mission to help the service members.”
Watch the video story about Sam and Garrett Anderson.Page updated Nov. 10, 2013