Joan Grey: Persevering spinal cord injury to continue a life of service and helping others
Joan Grey has taken on many roles in her life - mother, grandmother, Veteran, and military spouse. She graduated from West Point in the first class that included women and was commissioned in the Army where she served in the U.S. and Germany as platoon leader, commander, and staff officer. At five years of service, she sustained a spinal cord injury in a midair collision during a parachute jump, and was medically retired from military service. The accident, which occurred during a night mass tactical operation at Fort Bragg, NC, not only ended her military career but also curtailed some of her favorite pastimes, such as running. Over a period of 8 months, her injuries resolved somewhat. The 12 vertebrae fusion with hardware, cauda equina syndrome, and ankle repairs are an ongoing reminder of her airborne legacy. Today she is an ambulatory paraplegic, meaning that she is mobile but is living with some hidden disability as a result of her injury. She is a lifetime member of Paralyzed Veterans of America.
Joan has maintained an active lifestyle, through which she exercises her passion for helping others. She serves as Director of Creative Initiatives with Spiral Alliance Partners, where she engages in projects that include workshop development (e.g., Women's Leadership Practicum, Women's Healing) and social media (e.g., Business and Professional Women's Foundation's initiative supporting women Veterans and military/Veteran spouses, Joining Forces Mentoring Plus™). As a military spouse, she has served as hospital chaplain and environmental educator, fund raiser and facilitator. She has also volunteered with family readiness groups, military spouse organizations, and the American Red Cross. She initiated and coordinated programs including SEA (support, encouragement, accountability) circles, art & soul, Caring Connections, and Soulcrafts. She currently facilitates a spirituality group and a virtual SEA accountability circle, and volunteers at Arlington Cemetery.
Joan and her husband have settled in Arlington, Virginia. It was here that she learned about CDMRP and its mission from a neighbor, who is serving as a reviewer for one of their programs. Through this connection, she was introduced to, and recommended as a consumer reviewer for, the Department of Defense's Spinal Cord Injury Research Program. Joan served as a peer reviewer for both the fiscal year 2011 and 2012 programs.
Joan's son, a Coast Guard aviator, and his family live in Florida. Envisioning the world she wants her "grand girls" to experience and inherit is Joan's driving force and the focus of her attention and energy. Marshaling the discipline and perseverance honed as a runner, Joan continues her work to improve the lives of military families, women Veterans, and individuals with spinal cord injury.