FLOROSA — When Melody Barrons heard a knock on the door shortly after bringing her husband home from the hospital, she thought it was going to be a silly gift from his jokester buddies.
Instead, she found four smiling delivery men on her doorstep ready to drop off an $8,000 mattress to help her husband, a retired Air Force combat controller, recover from injuries he sustained over two decades on the job.
“This is amazing,” Melody said. “His lack of sleep has been so severe, and then the first night home after the surgery, I can’t even believe he’s going to get to sleep in this bed.
“I won’t be able to get him out of it the morning.”
Steve Barrons retired from the 23rd Special Tactics Squadron at Hurlburt Field in 2012.
In the two years since, the 37-year-old has started to realize the damage the work did to his body, and he’s not alone.
He and most other special operators suffer from back and neck problems from years carrying heavy equipment, jumping out of planes, fast-roping from helicopters and countless other duties they are called on to perform both in the field and while training.
“Everyone I know has neck and back problems,” Steve said.
Recently, it became excruciatingly painful for him to move, and he discovered he had a bulging disc in his neck.
The problem likely arose from a trauma he suffered years ago in Afghanistan when a heavy, plastic lid flew up 100 feet in the air and came down on the back of his neck, knocking him out cold.
That injury was exacerbated by years of strain carrying a heavy load on his head. His bullet-proof helmet, night goggles and spare battery weighed about 10 to 12 pounds.
On Monday, he had a titanium disc inserted to alleviate the pain.
Rob Mott, a fellow veteran and founder of Darkhorse Benefits, heard about Steve’s situation and wanted to help.
“These guys are coming home broken, but no one knows it,” Mott said. “They are not out there complaining.”
Through a partnership with Tempur-Sealy and Mattress Firm, they were able to deliver a state-of-the-art sleep system that will relieve pressure on Steve’s injuries and help him sleep.
Mott said research shows orthopedic mattresses can be very helpful in alleviating pain from spinal injuries, and sleep itself is important for recovery.
Tuesday’s delivery was the first in the partnership’s efforts to provide mattresses for all wounded special operators and eventually all active-duty ones, as well, Mott said.
After they arrived at the Barrons’ home, the men moved around quickly, dismantling the couple’s old bed and installing the new one.
Melody and Steve hovered at the door of the bedroom, but the men wouldn’t let them help.
“This is a very deserving veteran,” said Eric Tidd with Mattress Firm in Panama City. “I couldn’t be more proud to be here today ... He’s going to sleep better than he ever has before.”
Contact Daily News Staff Writer Lauren Sage Reinlie at 850-315-4443 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @LaurenRnwfdn.