VA » Health Care » North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System » Post 9/11 Veterans reflect on their service
North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System
Post 9/11 Veterans reflect on their service
By Melanie L. Thomas, MBA, Public Affairs Officer
Tuesday, September 7, 2021“I’ll never forget September 11, 2001. I had just separated from active duty in the National Guard. It was the first day at my new job at Defense Finance Accounting Service (DFAS) when I heard what had happened, said Veteran Jerry Majetich. “Right then, I knew I wanted to go and knew that I was going to be activated shortly after.”
Serving in the Marines and in the U.S. Army for over 19 years, Majetich’s final tour of duty in Iraq would be life changing.
“There were eight insurgents that were waiting for me," said Majetich. "When my vehicle ran over the roadside bomb, they triggered it.”
On October 29, 2005, Majetich was ambushed in Iraq. After a 57-minute gun fight, 37 percent of Majetich’s body and 100 percent of his face and scalp were burned. He also sustained a traumatic brain injury, a gunshot wound to the right shoulder, three gunshot wounds to the right leg, and multiple other injuries that resulted in the loss of a quarter of his stomach, a third of his small intestine, and three fractures to his spine.
Regardless of the injuries Majetich incurred in Iraq, he maintains that he would volunteer to go back into the fight all over again.
“I believed and still believe in what we were doing. I wanted to do what I could for the people in Iraq and wanted to bring our troops home to their families,” said Majetich.
Majetich served as a psychological operations tactical team leader in Iraq.
“I was really good at my job and loved what I did. I remember a week before my final deployment to Iraq they offered me a promotion. It would mean that I’d be taken out of my position and put in a detachment level one,” said Majetich. “As a tactical team leader, you don’t walk away from your team a week before deployment.”
Retired Army Veteran Marva Austin recalls the moments that she learned of the terror attacks on September 11, 2001.
“I was working in the transportation section at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. I was in the reserves at the time,” said Austin.
Over the course of her 34-year military career with deployments to Africa, two tours of duty in Iraq and two tours of duty in Afghanistan, Austin remembers the harsh conditions of war.
“I remember lying in bed and feeling things shake, hearing bombs go off and gun fire, hiding under the table in the dining facility (DFAC) eating my lunch, sleeping in an empty firehouse and in an airport, in a garage, in a tent, and going 30 days without an actual shower,” said Austin.
Like Majetich, Austin explains that despite the conditions of her service, she’d do it all over again. She considers being a lifeline to her comrades and serving additional duties as a pregnancy physical therapy instructor military career highlights.
“I worked in logistics while deployed. I ordered supplies such as food, water, and equipment and monitored their departure and arrival to the forward operating bases (FOBs),” said Austin. It always made me feel good to know that a convoy made their delivery because things often happened. Sometimes I had to re-think how to get supplies to soldiers out in the field.
Austin also helped take care of women soldiers who became pregnant while serving.
“As a pregnancy physical therapy instructor, I helped train them, exercise them, and made sure that they were taking care of themselves. I also had to help them after they gave birth to prepare them for back in the fight not just physically, but mentally as well,” said Austin.
Twenty years after the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, Majetich and Austin say that they wish Veterans knew how valuable the Veterans Administration (VA) has been in coordinating their care and in making sure that they’ve had all the resources necessary for successful re-integration.
“I’ve had over 82 surgeries to date,” said Majetich. “VA does a phenomenal job in, not only providing my care, but coordinating it out in the community.”
Austin explains that VA has been there for her from the very first day that she returned home.
“VA takes care of me and they’re always on time. I take advantage of things like secure messaging and telehealth services,” she said. “All of my providers are very responsive and everything that I need is always taken care of. They’ve been there for me since day one of my return from deployment and the services that I receive are always top notch.”
(To view a photo of Retired Army Veteran Marva Austin and a printable copy of this feature go to the following link and click on PDF:
The North Florida/South Georgia Veterans Health System (NF/SGVHS) provides ongoing transition services, health care, and case management support to Post-9/11 service members, Veterans, their families, and caregivers through the Post-911 Military2VA Case Management program. To inquire about the program, please email Vhanfltransitionandcaremanagement@va.gov or call 352-348-6000 ext. 104797.
If you are a Veteran who has recently returned home from deployment and is interested in enrollment in VA health care, please visit: VA Health Care Enrollment and Eligibility - Health Benefits. Additionally, VA has resources for those Post-9/11 Veterans struggling with renewed trauma from the news in Afghanistan.
NF/SGVHS is one of the nation’s largest VA healthcare systems employing more than 5,800 medical professionals and support staff dedicated to providing high quality care to Veterans residing throughout North Florida and South Georgia. The organization operates 14 facilities to include two medical centers located in Gainesville and Lake City, a domiciliary and clinics located throughout a 50-county service area.