Oddise Lundy’s Odyssey Leads Her from Helping Her Husband to Helping Others
Oddise Lundy’s husband, Earl, was an Army cook in Afghanistan in 2008. He was in a kitchen working alongside other soldiers. Outside his window, a vehicle packed with explosives detonated.
“The building collapsed on him,” she said. “He was buried under five feet of rubble for four or five hours before he could be extracted. He had multiple injuries from head to toe. A beam fell across his legs. Not until he was brought back to the United States–four days later–did they know that doctors could save Earl’s legs from amputation.”
The explosion launched what has been a 14-year struggle for Oddise, whose name is pronounced Odyssey, which she says is fitting given the painful journey she and Earl have navigated. Oddise took over all of the duties of caregiving as well as household and financial management.
“Countless doctors’ appointments, multiple surgeries and years of treatment became part of our everyday lives,” she said. “Life this way has become our new normal.”
With time, Oddise had started to envision new challenges that might turn her life around and help her family. That dream included a college degree. However, with a daughter headed to the University of Houston this year and a 16-year-old son, she had no way of paying for her own college education.
Then she learned that she is one of this year’s eight Pillars of Strength Scholarship recipients at University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC). She and her children will be in college together.
“It was something I was praying about—going back to school,” she said. “Now I will be able to pursue this dream of mine of earning a bachelor’s degree.”
Although Earl has slowly recovered, she said, a crushed nerve injury means he will always suffer some pain. He will never have the freedom of movement he once had. His physical injuries have been accompanied by psychological problems. Still, to their surprise considering the severity of his leg injuries, Earl has been able to walk again. Even more, he has taken up and fallen in love with a career that seems improbable: physical training. Even though he can’t move easily, he is able to train others, Oddise said, and pursue his passion of physical fitness.
Earl has been working with Combined Arms in Houston, an organization that assists veterans transitioning to civilian life. He helps wounded vets in recovery workouts.
“That was pretty much his therapy during the healing process,” Oddise said. “It’s something that helps him mentally. It kept him away from that dark hole of depression”
Oddise volunteers with Combined Arms as a caregiver outreach coordinator. She has worked as a pharmacy technician and has technician licenses and certifications, but the number of college courses she has completed is limited. For a short time, she attended Full Sail University in Florida to learn about media and journalism, an experience that sparked her interest in communication and marketing.
She had heard about UMGC, and while talking with a counselor she was asked whether she was a caregiver to a wounded veteran. That led to her application for the Pillars of Strength Scholarship.
When she heard she was one of this year’s recipients, she said she cried like a baby. It was for her “a big exhale.”
Oddise wants to study marketing, with the ultimate goal of working with Earl to start a youth organization aimed at helping young men and women get a good start in life. Marketing work will allow the flexibility to work from home or in an office.
Oddise also wants to assist other caregivers trying to start home businesses since she knows how caregiving, combined with the need to make money while confined at home, can spark entrepreneurship.
Her advice to other veterans and caregivers suddenly thrown into a situation like hers?
“Anyone facing this as we did, I say just hang in there,” she said. “Don’t give up. Don’t quit. Just continue to live to see another day—that’s for both the soldier and the caregiver.
“We don’t know what’s on the other side of the mountain, but we do know there is another side. So, keep going and find that community that you can lean on in the toughest times.”