Lived Through This

I owe my new life to my Marine husband’s hideous death

Photo courtesy of the author.

Cleve’s prosthetic leg stood in the corner of my living room, its plastic foot still wearing his khaki Converse shoe. It was the third anniversary of his death, and I stared at the socket that once held his nub, remembering its shape. After the amputation, it was rounded, a pink scar cut clean across the top. As the muscle atrophied, his flesh hung like a boneless chicken breast, the scar left amorphous and supple.

On April 1, 2006, men were hiding in bushes on the side of a steaming-hot road in Ramadi, Iraq, when the Humvee driven by my husband…

Thousands responded and it is gut-wrenching

On Thursday, only days before Memorial Day, the U.S. Army posted a video to their Twitter of a young soldier, Pfc. Nathan Spencer. In it, Spencer says the Army has given him the opportunity to “serve something greater than [himself]” and that serving in the military has afforded him the opportunity to “better [himself] as a man and a warrior.”

The video is convincing. Spencer is a healthy-looking young man who is obviously motivated and ready to serve. He is an embodiment of the war hero image we hold in our collective mind. We want to cheer him on, give…

At 33, I’m finally learning to shed a lifetime of shame

Silhouette of a woman in a room.
Silhouette of a woman in a room.
Photo: Aaron McCoy/Getty Images

In my small Alabama high school, before I’d ever considered the calories I put into my body, a boy told me I needed to eat more cornbread to get some meat on my bones. He told me I had a flat ass, then said, “But at least you got DSL.” I was 14. I was 14 and I’d never heard of DSL, so I had to ask around to find out what that meant. This was before DSL high-speed internet. Back then, according to another boy who laughed at me when I asked, it meant “dick sucking lips.” …

A war hero’s battle with opioid addiction

Photo: Pekic/Getty Images

It had become normal to watch Cleve nod off. He was usually in the middle of doing something: smoking a cigarette, eating, assembling a model airplane. When he awoke, his body would quake back to life. His eyes would snap open and scan the room, pupils the size of moons, as he tried to remember where he was, when he was, what he was doing. He’d reach into his back pocket where he kept a small towel, bring it to his forehead and pat it dry. Often, he was not quite awake. His eyelids would sag and he’d mumble some…

My winter at Camp Lejeune

Photo: Kypros/Getty Images

Jacksonville was a man’s world, the whole damn place a bachelor pad. The main road leading to Camp Lejeune wasn’t much more than asphalt and spindly pines. The rest was car lots, strip clubs, and tattoo parlors, chain restaurants, and a sad excuse for a mall. Young men with matching crew cuts roamed in packs on the sides of roads. Colorful hot rods purchased with deployment money revved up at red lights. And during rush hour, on the median of Western Boulevard, the Jacksonville Ninja, an anonymous man who seemed as natural to the place as the pines, practiced his…

I was at a stoplight when I noticed the one-armed man. His nose and cheekbones were prominent — sharp; the fleshiness of his cheeks had dried and creased. They were shadowed and dusted with whiskers. His prominent nose reminded me of Cleve’s; the bridge carefully arched, the tip rounded. The wind-tattered sleeve of his white t-shirt hung limp and armless at his right side, waving in the wind. His left arm held a cardboard sign with words scrawled in permanent marker: Need a Miracle.

“What do they do with the limbs?” I’d asked the doctor before Cleve’s surgery. I’d wanted…

Love, resilience, and my husband’s war wounds

Illustration: Malte Mueller/Getty Images

The first time I saw an amputee was in April 2006 at Bethesda Naval Hospital. I was 20 years old. The man was attractive, in his late teens to early twenties, with overgrown brown hair, the beginnings of a beard, and both legs missing just above the knees. A woman with a platinum blond bob struggled to push his wheelchair up a series of inclines as they navigated the window-lined hallway connecting the basement cafeteria to the main hospital.

I was in the garden outside smoking a Marlboro Light, a worsening habit since I’d arrived in Maryland. The garden, with…

I’m not sure what’s scarier: losing touch with my friends when they become parents, or becoming one myself

Photo: Westend61/Getty Images

One of my closest friends told me she was pregnant the other night over taco salads. I imagined us a year from then, sitting in her living room; Her, sitting across from me in her pajamas — her son latched to her breast — resenting me a little for being able to come and go as I please, for not completely understanding what it’s like to have to share my body, to nourish another human with it. …

“Third Wheel” by Jennifer Clark-Grainger. Instagram: jennandjuice

On April 20, 2010 at 9:56 p.m., the day my husband’s body was found, an explosion occurred on the Deep Water Horizon oil rig off the coast of Louisiana, killing eleven crew members and injuring seventeen more. A well cracked, spilling oil into the Gulf of Mexico for eighty-seven days. He was in a pool of his own blood and, just out of reach of his lifeless hand, lay a pipe with black residue.

Fentanyl, like heroine, can be smoked. I imagine the moment he gave in to addiction’s draw, to the promise of escape from his broken body for…

Karie Fugett

I’m human, just like you. Author of ALIVE DAY (Dial Press, 2023). More about me @

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