surviving tragedy & finding strength on the other side
what it means to have a story by faith
by Kristin Bentley
One of the biggest fears we all have is to receive a call in the middle of night, waking us up, while our husband is deployed overseas in combat. In 2005, Tiffany Smiley and her Soldier were just newlyweds, celebrating their first wedding anniversary only a few months before she received such a call.
"At first, I thought it was Scotty," says Tiffany. "You hold so tight to those conversations and those moments when they are away. But this time, it wasn't Scotty's voice, it was his commander."
The commander explained to Tiffany that Scotty had been badly hurt, there had been a suicide bombing and he suffered shrapnel to both eyes. After a pause he said at that point they weren't even sure if Scotty was going to make it, then he started to cry. In that very moment what had previously felt surreal to Tiffany, suddenly became very real. Scotty's world had been blown up, and so was hers, as she felt her life instantly shatter into a million pieces. And all she could do was sit and wait for updates on her husband's progress, helplessly, as he lay in a hospital bed on the other side of the world.
Resigning from her career as a young RN in the Tri Cities, Tiffany made it a point to be waiting at Walter Reed Medical Center before her husband arrived. After getting the news that her husband had been stabilized, she prepared herself to be everything he needed to make a full recovery.
While the doctors saved Scotty's life, they couldn't save his eyes. And the news of this was absolutely devastating for Tiffany. It felt like there was no hope because she had no idea what this would mean for her husband and their future.
"He's not going to see, ever again," was all she could think.
Diving head first into her role as her husband's primary caregiver, Tiffany quickly became his advocate, never leaving his side. At one point, she was asked to sign papers for her husband to medically retire from the military. But she stood strong, saying that Scotty must receive the time he needed to make a full recovery, so that he would be able to make the decision for himself. And he did.
Throughout his recovery, Tiffany supported her husband in every way that she could. "Every day I would go into Scotty's room and speak life and truth. I would tell him that he's going to be a teacher someday, as well as a speaker, and that he would probably write a book. I had to give him hope that there was still opportunity. So I poured everything I had into this."
Scotty served another 10 years as an Army officer, becoming the very first blind service member. He received a Master's Degree from Duke University and earned the prestigious MacArthur Leadership Award. He also went on to teach military leadership at West Point and to command the Warrior Transition Unit at West Point's Keller Army Medical Center. In 2012, he wrote Hope Unseen.
Throughout the couple's journey, Tiffany never realized how much she was carrying on her shoulders or the fact that she never allowed herself time to grieve for the injury her husband sustained, until nine years later. After having three handsome boys, starting businesses of her own, and watching Scotty excel at achieving his personal goals of competing in an Ironman and climbing Mount Rainier, Tiffany began to feel her health break down. She quickly learned that her body was telling her it was time to grieve
"I had to grieve the loss of my dreams."
The beautiful part is that her husband was there to support her during the time that she needed him the most. Tragedy has its defining moment for every couple. For the Smileys, it was in these weak and vulnerable moments that they put each other first, which allowed them to heal and grow together.
Tiffany's faith in God and love for her family gave her the strength to do the impossible, and in many ways the unthinkable. Today she is grateful for the life that she lives, and feels blessed that she is now able to use her story to uplift other women through Story by Faith.
Today, her message to other military wives is to live boldy.
"I have had many days when I felt isolated and believed the lie that I was not enough, but God did not leave me there and He is not going to leave you in that place either. He wants you to live out your unique and gifted purpose so you can be a light to those around you. He has so much in store for us all, a future and a hope just for you!"