Forever after: A warrior wounded, a family challenged

Before Deven Schei deployed to Afghanistan in 2010, his family posed for a portrait. From left: Anneka, Gordon, Erik, Deven and Christine Schei.


By MEGAN MCCLOSKEY | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 13, 2012

One bullet.

One choice.

One American military family shattered.

On Oct. 26, 2005, Army Spc. Erik Schei was shot in the head during a patrol in Iraq. The doctors said he would never recover from the catastrophic brain injury. They urged the family to take the 21-year-old off life support.

But his mother refused to abandon hope.

Christine Schei’s choice to take her wounded son home forever altered her family. Her younger son vowed to finish his brother’s mission, only to end up gravely wounded himself. Her 4-year-old daughter lost her childhood. Her husband lost his career, and his peace of mind.

Thousands of American servicemembers have been seriously wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last 12 years of war. But the collateral damage from those wounds extends much further, challenging the families of the wounded for a lifetime.

Chapter 1: Christine's choice

Christine Schei refuses to take her son off life support, and instead starts down the long path of caregiving as Erik struggles to recover from severe brain damage.
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Chapter 2: A promise kept

Deven Schei follows through on a promise he made to his older brother and joins the Army. After getting wounded in Afghanistan, he battles depression as he recovers alone at Brooke Army Medical Center.
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Chapter 3: Reality sets in

Seven years after Erik was shot, he is still trapped in a body that barely moves. Christine’s life revolves around his daily needs, and she fights the VA to get him every treatment available.
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About the series

This series was compiled from extensive interviews with the Schei family over four months; first-hand observations from the Schei home in Rio Rancho, N.M., with Deven Schei at Brooke Army Medical Center, and with the family during a visit to Washington, D.C.; medical documents; and interviews with therapists involved in Erik Schei’s care. The dialogue is reconstructed from the memories of those involved, with more than one source confirming what was said when possible.

On a Saturday morning in June of 2012, Christine Schei's plate remains empty while she feeds her 28-year-old son, Erik, breakfast. Erik was shot in the head in Iraq in 2005 and has little use of his body.

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