The sacrifices we are making for a healthy nation these days seem enormous, yet they pale in comparison to those made by our military. In a humbling reminder of how fortunate we are to live in this great country, we bring you the story of Major (Ret.) Jeremy Haynes, our April NFM Salute. Haynes was paralyzed after being shot while serving in Afghanistan in 2014. Left on the battlefield to die, he was rescued by a brave soldier who risked his own life. Recently, Jeremy was gifted a smart home by the Gary Sinise Foundation. It’s our honor to introduce Jeremy and his moving story to the NFM Family of lenders and our partners.

NFM Lending is pleased to honor (Ret.) Major Jeremy Haynes as the NFM Salute for April 2020.

Haynes, a native of Albany, Georgia, vowed to serve his country after watching the horrific events of September 11th, 2001 in his high school JROTC classroom. In 2004, he earned a scholarship to Georgia Military College and was later commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He deployed to Afghanistan, having to leave his then-pregnant wife, Chelsea, and their two children.

During a mission in Kabul on August 5th, 2014, Haynes was shot four times by an Afghan Military Soldier. At the time, Haynes was serving as aide to Maj. Gen. Harold Greene, who did not survive the attack. Haynes was evacuated to Germany, then Walter Reed Military Medical Center, where he woke up to his wife beside him.

One of the shots was to his back, injuring his spine. He suffered a severed vena cava and 80% of the nerves to his lower extremities, leaving both of his legs paralyzed. Needing multiple surgeries, Haynes faced an excruciating and long recovery. At one point, he wrote, “I WILL WALK AGAIN” on a piece of paper and stared at it every day. After months of physical therapy and with Chelsea encouraging and inspiring him, he finally stood and took his first steps in November 2014. Now, Haynes can stand and walk for short periods of time with the help of adaptive equipment.

Discussing how he kept pushing himself and continues to do so every day, Haynes said:

“I tell myself, “Hey, you have to live on for [Col. Greene], you have to live on for those who can’t be here today, who wish they were. Those who died in a foreign land. They died serving a great country. They need to be honored, and me having pity parties or saying what I can’t do anymore, I told myself, “Jeremy, throw all that in the trash.” Those guys died so you could be here, living and having the freedoms we often take for granted. God has granted you an opportunity to walk on this earth again.”

During his extensive military career, Haynes has been honored with a multitude of awards, including: the Purple Heart, Bronze Star Medal, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, Iraqi Freedom Campaign Medal, Combat Action Badge, Senior Parachutist Badge, Air Assault Badge, Parachute Rigger Badge, German Jump Wings, and the Norwegian 30K Road Mark Badge.

Haynes was a recent recipient of a specially adapted smart home, courtesy of the R.I.S.E. program of the Gary Sinise Foundation. This home will allow Jeremy to live more independently and improve his quality of life.

“The one thing that stood out for me is those few inches in a door,” said Haynes. “For the average person it may mean little, but to me, having those few inches allows me the ability to navigate my wheelchair into my kids’ rooms; to be able to pray with them, kiss them goodnight, read them a bedtime story, and tuck them in. That itself, in my opinion, is the greatest feature of this home.”

NFM Lending is proud to donate $2,500 to The Gary Sinise Foundation on behalf of Haynes and his family. NFM looks forward to the opportunity to continue to honor military and Veterans through the NFM Salute initiative.

Full Transcript of Video Interview is Below:​

– [Jeremy] Old Glory’s catching wind.

– Do you have any regrets when you look back? Would you do it all over again, knowing the situation that you found yourself in and the life you’re living right now?

– In a heartbeat sir. Bullet’s in there, and right here’s another little second bullet. And the third one’s in my spine and the fourth one it went through me. It was a routine mission and someone opened fire I was shot four times And I remember laying on the ground and hearing footsteps behind me. And someone saying, “Hey, he’s not gonna make it, “just keep moving.” And then those footsteps got further and further away. I woke up and I opened my eyes and that’s when, an individual by the name of Chris, ran up to me, grabbed me by the back of my collar, he lifted me up and he was like, “We gotta go, we’re under attack.” And, as soon as he let me go, I just, my whole body just fell to the ground. And he picked me back up, he was like, “Jeremy, we have to go.” And that’s when I looked at him, I was like, I can’t feel nothing.

– Well, when I got the phone call, I was listening to everything that I was being told. I just tried to stay as calm as possible during that conversation. It wasn’t a lot of details. After I got off the phone, I had to have a cry out, I shut my door to my office and I just, I took a moment and then I told myself, I have to get myself together because I had to go pick up our boys from daycare.

– [Greg] You were pregnant at the time as well right?

– Yep, I was pregnant with number three child. I had to gather myself up for them because I didn’t wanna interrupt their daily routines.

– How long in between when you got the phone call and you had a chance to see Jeremy?

– About five days ’cause he arrived back to Walter Reed. And I saw him as he arrived.

– What were those hours like, when you knew he was in the air?

– Long, nerve-racking, of anticipation, of what he would look like.

– I remember opening my eyes and seeing trees and seeing kids playing and I thought to myself, I’m not in Afghanistan anymore. I must be home. And, so we arrived at Walter Reed and they opened the door, I’m seeing this silhouette of this pregnant woman and then it was like blurry, and then it came into focus. And it was my wife.

– What has it been like through these years to be the rock for your family and for Jeremy?

– It has been very challenging. Many couples end up separating. Especially because of injuries and that was something I vowed not to do. And I made a vow to him on our wedding day that, sickness and health, it doesn’t matter.

– The opportunity to meet the First Lady, Michelle Obama and President Barrack Obama, how did that happen and what was that experience like?

– I remember he just walked through the door. He was like, “Hey, what’s going on everybody? “What’s up Jeremy?” And I kinda just paused, I was like, honey, that’s the President. And you know, we talked about sports, we talked about family. Chelsea was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, and so that was a great talking point.

– Yeah.

– And he embraced my mom, embraced the kids and just an overall down to earth individual.

– Your beautiful new home that was provided through the RISE Program, and the Gary Sinise Foundation. So what was the process like of getting to this point where you were given a home?

– We filled out an application with the Gary Sinise Foundation, we had lunch with Gary. At that lunch he told me, he was like, “I’m gonna build you guys a house.” And like, I believe it when you buy the land. So they bought the land and then it was like, “Do you believe us now?” I believe it once I see a foundation. Then at the very end, the home dedication, and he leaned over, he was like, “Do you believe us now?” And I believe it when you give me the iPad. Each home is built differently based on the challenges of the service members. There’s no one size fit all. From the security standpoint, I could arm the home anywhere I’m at and I could lock any door and unlock any door. From the temperature, the same thing. I could set the temperatures regardless wherever I’m at in the house. Being able to turn lights on and off. I could turn on televisions. Turn on music, turn on the cable. It has an intercom system where I could page my kids no matter where I’m at in the house. But one thing that I valued a lot that they took into account is the security system. Having cameras in all the common areas of the house as well as around the house. So right here, if you put your foot on that kick plate sir.

– Kick plate?

– Yes sir.

– All right, hold on a second.

– Pull it down.

– Here?

– Yep, come up some. Right there. That’s what it sounds like, that HVAC system. And it literally sucks up all the dirt throughout the house. So that was.

– It’s that easy, even I can do it.

– A cool function.

– See the outlets.

– Even for the countertop and for the outlet, again, I said, not every home isn’t built the same. They literally measured my torso, measured my arm, just to be sure that I’m able to touch every single outlet and eat on every single counter space. Even the tables, everything was specifically designed for me. And so with this right here just gives me an opportunity to go upstairs and to see my two kids. I normally keep a wheelchair up there as well. And so I transfer into the chair, go upstairs, transfer into another wheelchair, and at least I have the opportunity up there, every night. Through accessible doors to be able to you know, to kiss my kids and tuck them in at night. Yeah, the technology’s amazing, you know the flooring, everything about this home is amazing, but one thing that stood out for me is, those few inches in a door. For the average person it may mean little, but to me, having those few inches allowed me the ability to navigate my wheelchair, and that in itself, in my opinion, is the greatest feature of this home.

– [Greg] When you look at this house, what are just some words that come to mind?

– I’m grateful. I’m grateful that individuals like Gary Sinise exist in the world today. He kinda wrapped his arm around the community of phenomenal Americans. And not only Gary but his family. Just for everyone who donated a piece of their time and effort and money to make this possible. You see those two rocks right there? They came from the Pentagon, from 9/11. They were donated to us.

– Naturally, you went to some deep dark places. What was it like to be there and what did Chelsea do to pull you out?

– Having a wife who’s also in Army Reserves and happened to be a drill sergeant, constantly you know, get on to me and say, hey, you know, “We have no time for pity parties, you need to stop that.” You know, “You need to get up, you have boys who will need their father.” “You have to live on for those who can’t be here today, who wish that they was here.” “Those who died in a foreign land.” “They died serving a great country.” And so, they need to be honored and me having pity parties, me saying what I can’t do anymore. There were times where I had more losses than wins throughout my days. In a hospital bed, every day can’t move, and doctors telling me things that I’ll never be able to do again.

– [Greg] It’s so beautiful.

– [Jeremy] Yes sir.

– When you look out here. And as we can see you’re standing here.

– Yes sir.

– All on your own.

– Yes sir.

– What’s that feel like? Take us into your body for a minute.

– The only muscles that came back was, were my quads. Everything else I can’t feel. I have on special braces that was developed at Walter Reed. A rigorous process to go through an intense physical therapy where just talking to you right now, constantly I’m telling myself I’m standing, I’m standing, I’m standing. I got some peers who were shot one time in the same spot and they’re unable to stand.

– You stand much taller than you think.

– Yes sir, thank you.

– You understand what I’m saying right?

– Yes sir.

– There’s a tranquility in the air out here.

– Yes sir, calm. And that’s one of the great things about the Gary Sinise Foundation and its partners, like the Semper Fi Fund when they purchased the lot, they wanted to symbolize, hey, the war is over. Now it’s time for peace, tranquility and family connectivity.