It’s been two years since Andrea and Adalee Bruns have unpacked their suitcases.
The Marine Corps veteran and her four-year-old daughter have been “co-sleeping” since Andrea returned to civilian life in 2017, sharing rooms with relatives across the country and most recently in an RV trailer.
On Friday, they were finally able to start unpacking.
Andrea accepted the keys to their new, permanent home in Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota. U.S. Bank, in partnership with Freedom Alliance and Chronos Solutions, donated the renovated three-bedroom, three-bathroom townhome through its Housing Opportunities after Military Engagement (H.O.M.E.) program.
“I would do anything for Adalee, but for the past two years I have felt like I haven’t been able to provide for her like I should be able to,” said the retired sergeant. “But now, I feel joy. I feel relief. I feel gratefulness. And I’ve obviously cried… well, wait, no, Marines don’t cry.”
Bruns, born in Colorado and raised in Ohio, served eight years in the Marines including two deployments to Afghanistan. Over that time, from 2009 to 2017, she earned a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal and Navy Unit Commendation, among others.
“I grew up a proud American and enlisted when I was 21 to give back to my country; it was something in my heart that I had to do,” said Bruns. “The deployments made me further appreciate America after being in a place (Afghanistan) where people, especially women, have so few rights. I kissed the ground when we got back.”
The tours left Bruns with post-traumatic stress, tendinitis, sciatic nerve damage, hearing loss, migraines and a host of additional combat-related injuries. Upon return to civilian life, she applied to dozens of jobs and found stretches of work in a warehouse and as a waitress. Her injuries (for which she was rated 100 percent disability by the VA), however, severely hindered her ability to perform the jobs’ everyday tasks.
She said the hardest job, though, has been being a mom.
“The day Adalee was born was the best of my life,” she said. “But ‘Mom’ and ‘Marine’ are both 24/7 jobs. It’s been challenging at times. And it’s hard to ask for help.”
On Friday, Bruns learned just how much help is out there. She was welcomed to her suburban Twin Cities home by dozens of neighbors, fellow veterans, local dignitaries and first responders, and employees from Freedom Alliance and U.S. Bank. She thought it was fitting to move to Minnesota in the middle of winter. Although the temperature barely topped 30 degrees during the key ceremony, she joked that “It beats 130 degrees in Afghanistan!”
With the stability of a permanent home, Bruns said she’ll be able to focus on healing through physical therapy and hopes to start her own taxidermy business down the line. “I’ve done a lot of praying, and I know I was led here for something good.”
And the first “something good” will be simply swapping suitcases for closets and dressers – thanks, in part, to a surprise $5,000 furniture donation from locally-based Ashley Furniture.
“This all feels like a dream,” Bruns reflected, choking up. “I’m about to cry.”
Well, wait, no, Marines don’t cry.
Written by Pat Swanson with photos by Justin Yunke of U.S. Bank. The bank has partnered with Freedom Alliance to donate 12 homes to veterans in recent years and last year expanded the partnership to include vehicles as well. Learn more about its support of veterans at proudtoserve.usbank.com.