by Melanie Nicholas
Slideshow photographs by Reel Wives photographer Kristin Machen
Don’t let her broad smile and beautiful, sweet face fool you. Roxana Delgado is one tough lady who doesn’t take no for an answer, and she works tirelessly to turn her family’s tragedy into triumph.
Her husband, US Army SFC (Ret.) Victor Medina, suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) when an explosive tore through his vehicle during a convoy in Iraq. Over the course of several months, doctors discovered his injuries were much more extensive than initially believed. When he came home for therapy and rehabilitation, Delgado became his full-time caregiver while continuing to pursue her doctorate in interdisciplinary health sciences.
Together, they identified gaps in TBI screening, diagnosis and treatment, which they brought to the attention of military and civilian leadership. They wanted to change military health care policies for the injured and their caretakers. It wasn’t always an easy road. In 2011, Delgado shared her feelings of frustration on Facebook.
“I will never give up, do you hear me?” she wrote. “Because I can say it louder, I will never quit on our soldiers!”
Her determination to change the system paid off. Now, she studies neurotrauma and the effects of TBI on soldiers and caregivers. The couple’s expertise and commitment to help other soldiers and their families has catapulted them onto the national stage.
They are now involved in governmental policy-making, and Medina has testified before the Senate and Congress. As an Elizabeth Dole Foundation Fellow, Delgado works in support of caregiver issues included in S.1085 – Military and Veteran Caregiver Services Improvement Act of 2015.
Her guiding principle is having the right attitude, hope going forward instead of “why and how things cannot be done.”
Delgado was in town as one of the guests of the Reel Wives support project. Reel Wives provides a three-day respite weekend for the spouses of inured soldiers. It is a time designed to help military wives develop new friendships and enjoy three days of rest, relaxation and fun. Reel Wives is the sister project of Reel Thanx, a fishing getaway for injured soldiers.
Aleesha Morales serves as the committee chair for Reel Wives, and she described the event’s beginnings.
“About 50 to 75 percent of the soldiers involved in Reel Thanx are married, and we wanted to acknowledge the wives as well. We sent flowers and care packages of whatever donations we could get from the community.”
But she and the other volunteers knew they wanted to do more for these unsung heroes. They started to fundraise through private donors, golf tournaments and clay shoots to raise money to bring the wives to Midland for their own mini holiday. For the last six years, Reel Wives has been able to host two events each year, and women fly in from all across the United States to participate.
“We see this as a ministry,” said committee volunteer Tonja Mansfied-Loftis. “These are women who don’t typically have the resources or support systems in place to treat themselves to something special. We get to take them shopping for boots at Cavender’s, buy new outfits at Versona, we get their nails done, give them massages, have their hair and make-up done, and take them for a really nice dinner.”
Volunteers also plan other special surprise activities and gifts for the wives. “It is an honor for us to get to do special secret treats, we love spoiling these women who do so much to support their families and this country.”
Delgado said she was blown away by the Reel Wives experience.
“The selfless acts of a community to care for our military and their spouses is just impressive. … I feel so fortunate and blessed to be among people with a heart for service. Thank you Reel Wives for making a difference, I’m enjoying this so much!”
Morales said the volunteers also have a wonderful time and one of the activities she enjoys the most is hosting a trip to her family clay shooting business, Windwalker Farms Sporting Clays.
She said people would be surprised to know how many military wives don’t know anything about guns or shooting.
“People think all military men are like Texans, but they’re not.”
So Reel Wives takes them out for a day of Texas-style training and shooting, a scavenger hunt and barbecue. “This weekend is a good mix of make you feel good about yourself and empowerment and team building,” Morales said.
Reel Wives administrator Katy Jordan said that is the whole point of the weekend.
“Reel Wives is kind of like a mini sorority. We build friendships with each other and with the volunteers. As they go down the road of life, we want them to know a support system is only a call away. We can help put them in touch with resources and other women who know what they are going through.”
You can learn more about this project and how to donate or volunteer at ReelWives.org.