Marine widow fighting for her independence

(MCT) — Jamie Hoots could tell something had changed after her husband returned from his second deployment to Iraq.

"He was a completely different person. Sometimes he was still there, other times it was like, I don't know. It would make him cry every day because of the things he had to do over there, the things he saw," she said.

His sleep was restless when it came at all. There were times he awoke and "thought I was a bad guy," Hoots said.

After years of struggling with the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Marine Sgt. Travis Hoots died, apparently taking his own life just as five others in his unit before him.

"They were all friends of Travis," Jamie Hoots said Wednesday. "I remember every time he got a phone call that one of the guys had done something, it put a hurt on him real bad and he had a hard time dealing with it."

Travis and Jamie Hoots were married after his return from boot camp and before his first deployment to Iraq in the beginning years of the war. He met his son, Dalton, when the boy was already several months old after he returned home for the first time.

After his second deployment and four years in the Marines, the family moved into their home in Roodhouse.

Since then, Travis Hoots had been to at least six therapists for treatment, but Jamie said he never seemed to get better. Through it all, Jamie Hoots said he remained a loving husband and father and a faithful Marine to his brothers in arms.

Then the family suffered a major blow when Jamie Hoots was paralyzed from the waist down in a car accident. Bound to a wheelchair and no longer able to climb the steps at her Roodhouse home, she moved in with her mother and stepfather in Jacksonville.

"He had a hard time dealing with it," she said. "He wasn't able to drive so he couldn't see me every day and he just wanted me to be home with him, but there was no way because I couldn't make it up those stairs."

Fifteen months later, he died, leaving behind his 10-year-old son and a wife who is not yet able to work.

After hearing her story, the West Central Illinois Leathernecks Detachment 1177 of the Marine Corps League, based in Jacksonville, decided to step in.

"The whole thing is, the mission statement of the Marine Corps League is that we try to help widows, wives and children," said C.O. Smith, Marine Corps League Department of Illinois commandant. "This is something that we do at the Marine Corps League. We take care of our own."

A Marine quilt donated to the detachment is being raffled off with the group intending to make a 100 percent match for any proceeds received. The donations will help Jamie Hoots take care of her son as she continues to go through physical therapy and work toward getting back in a home and getting back her independence.

"I'm ready to have that back," she said. "I'm so ready to be back on our own, for me and Dalton to have our own house."

Smith said tickets are $5 each or three for $10, with the drawing to be held Nov. 10. For tickets, mail a check payable to MCL Det. 1177 along with a name, address and phone number to: C.O. Smith, 1411 W. Walnut St., Jacksonville, IL 62650. Donations are also being accepted.
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(c)2013 the Jacksonville Journal-Courier (Jacksonville, Ill.)