SFC Tara Hutchinson (Army, OIF Veteran)

If you’re to create something powerful and important, you must at the very least be driven by an equally powerful inner force.
— Ryan Holiday

Valentine’s Day, although certainly commercialized, is a day that’s recognized as special by many. It’s a day of candy, cards, love notes, heart-shaped balloons, pristine floral arrangements and social media posts describing an undying affection for that certain someone. However, this isn’t the way Tara Hutchinson’s memories of Valentine’s Day play out. What started out as a mission like every other one ended up in painful loss and the tragic death of a dream. SFC Hutchinson, for all intents and purposes, was all in on a budding career in the United States Army. The Army had brought a guiding light into her life, a vision of hope where her path had previously become strewn with barbs of uncertainty and despair. Tara would never be the same after that fateful February day, her sacrifice in the desert an all too common reminder of the tragedy of warfare. SFC Hutchinson’s loss of limb would only be the beginning of this heart-wrenching journey. A personal catastrophe seemed to destroy any semblance of structure in Tara’s healing process. Still, beauty certainly does form out of the ashes.

It was while Hutchinson was ferociously fighting through a rehab process that would leave most in the fetal position in a pool of their own tears, that she discovered a new kind of love. Hands that once seemed suddenly useless, became conscious creators of stunning productions of metal and gemstone. Tara’s torment became a fervent force of alluring art, a metaphor of trauma and healing on display in every work. Nowadays? Hutchinson’s business is blossoming and although she will never forget those traumatic memories, she’s designated that pain to assisting in the genesis of a creative maelstrom. Rockstar-edge meets undefinable beauty that you, the reader, will witness throughout Tara’s blog (and at tarahutchjewelry.com). This story serves as a reminder that not all healing is without setback, and not all success is clean. Those who rise above one tempest and find new flight still find themselves fighting different storms. SFC Hutchinson’s ongoing story is a remarkable reminder that those who go through some of the darkest sequences in life, are capable of burning the brightest. We’d like to thank Catch A Lift Fund for introducing us to Tara, and providing us with yet another wonderful partnership.

What was life like growing up?

TH:  I thought life was fucking horrible at the time when I was growing up. In Alaska, it takes either a lot of money to leave the state by flying out, or a 2-week commitment by car to drive out. When I was a teenager, I had no idea how I was ever going to move out of the state. When I look back now I realize life was actually pretty damn good.  My family was upper middle class and I grew up in a beautiful, magical place. I spent my time skiing on the weekends and after school in the winter, and I played softball in the summer. Life was pretty good for me. Alaska is very different than any other place in the United States. I would be playing softball and realize I was hungry then discover it was midnight (laughs).

How were you raised by your parents?

TH:  I felt my parents were incredibly strict when I was younger. Looking back, they should have been a hell of a lot more strict. I did some very dangerous stuff when I was younger and some of that, I’m not sure my parents ever knew about.  My mother was always very loving and caring, and my dad was an awesome provider. He was a helicopter pilot in the Army during the Vietnam war, which is why he was eventually stationed up in Alaska. My mom was born and raised there. She was actually born in the same hospital as me.

Do you have brothers and sisters?

TH: I have one sister and two brothers.  My parents were together for 45 years and my dad passed away in 2017.

How was your relationship with your siblings growing up?

TH:  My relationship with my siblings was tough growing up.  My youngest brother and I are very close now but growing up I hated them all for some reason (laughs).  My parents moved to Oregon in 1996, a few years after I graduated High School and then moved to San Antonio in 2010.  My older brother chose to stay in Oregon and I didn’t see him until my dad passed away. We went many years without seeing one another.  My sister lives in San Antonio but I don’t have contact with her.

What was your path that led you into the Army?

TH:  I eventually found out how to leave Alaska. I was engaged to this guy who worked for AT&T, and they moved us down to northern California. Being secluded from my family and friends, and living with this person who smokes with all the windows up in the car shocked me out of my independence. I called my mom and my parents came from Oregon to rescue me.  The next two years I lived with them, and I had no idea how to get out. I was working a retail job and didn’t really have any future plans. I was driving one day when I passed a recruiter’s station and decided to check it out. I have always been a little on the chunky side, and I had to lose 40 pounds in order to leave for basic training after I signed the paperwork (laughs).  

What was joining the Army like for you?

TH: When I found out I was going to join the Army I watched every movie about the military.  I watched Private Benjamin, GI Jane, and researched them to find out details about it. By the time I left, I had a pretty good idea about what it was going to be like. The mind games in basic training weren’t the difficult part for me.  The hardest part was really the physical training. I have never in my life been a good runner and basic training was no exception. I remember running one morning before the sun came up and thought if I took one more step I would die.  When I signed in at the reception unit at Fort Bragg they informed me that PT was 0630. I said, “What? Did you just say fucking PT?” I could not believe we had to do unit PT in the regular Army (laughs). Somehow, I thought PT was only done in basic training (laughs).  Fort Bragg was my first duty station, and my First Sergeant loved to have us run.

My first day working the road as a MP, there was a horrible incident I will never forget. An NCO who was in jumpmaster school was checking the doors of the plane and had been sucked up through the door. His head was severed and my first duty was to guard the scene. It was the first dead body I ever saw.  That was definitely a day I will always remember. He was hanging from a tree with no head. At the time, I had no idea what a jumpmaster was. I found out later this happened because his arms weren’t locked when he leaned out the door, and the wind pushed his body to the side and out the door.

What do you remember about September 11th and what happened that day?

TH: September 11th was the first day that I was supposed to clear Fort Bragg for Korea.  I was going through my out-processing paperwork to get everything checked off, and was in my car on the way to my next station when I heard on the radio that a plane had hit the tower.  They were watching TV at the next building I went to and I saw the replay. I immediately knew things were going to change, and was called back to my unit from out-processing. That night, I marched to a gate and worked the next 4 days without relief.  There were people backed up for miles outside the gates. No one knew how to deal with the people coming on the installation during a ThreatCon 4.

What was Korea like?

TH: I ultimately ended going to Korea about a year later. The older generation in Korea are very thankful for Americans. The younger generation doesn’t know the difference, because they weren’t around during the war. It was difficult to see the younger people protesting for a unified country. I was lower-enlisted in the Army and had no idea that I would one day love being a Soldier.  This duty station was really fun. It is the only place in the Army where a lower enlisted soldier can go out drinking with their commander and first sergeant, and go to work the next day.

While in Korea, I was in charge of creating and teaching a school for all incoming Soldiers and KATUSAs, which was a great deal of responsibility. Turns out, this was exactly what I needed to take things more seriously. I started doing PT on my own and studying for my board. I became very serious about making the Army a career. I was an E-4 when I went to Korea and left as an E-6 a little under two years later.

How soon after Korea before you were deployed to Iraq?

TH: I came back from Korea to Fort Leonard Wood for BNCOC and got meningitis while I was attending.  I had to miss two weeks of the three month school. Somehow, they let me graduate and I spoke to my sergeant major about going to school to be a Drill Sergeant.  He told me if I ever wanted to get my E-9 that I needed to go to a combat unit. The Army sent me to the 463rd MP Company, who was getting ready to deploy in two years.  I trained as a squad leader during that time and it was unbelievable: I got to help guide young men into responsible soldiers. I knew the entire time I was at Fort Leonard Wood we would deploy in early 2006.  

What was the prep like for the deployment?

TH:  We did quite a bit of field work because that was what we would be doing in country.  However, it wasn’t entirely clear as to our specific mission until a few days before we flew from Kuwait into Baghdad. The basic MP mission consists of two sides: 1. Garrison duty, or working the road as we lovingly called it.  2. Combat operations which mainly consisted of field work. I knew when we deployed that we would be doing combat operations. The MP job is similar to being light infantry as far as fire power but we’re all mounted in three team squads.  Our mission was to make sure that the 4 or 5 Iraqi police stations assigned to our squad were operating properly. We needed to ensure they were set up with enough tools and training to become a functioning police station. I remember one time some of them shot their truck up, and it caught on fire in the parking lot of the IP station.

It was just crazy shit like that, all the time.  Common sense (and muzzle awareness) was definitely lacking. During train-up, I remember being so afraid of looking like a fraud. I believe part of that fear came from being promoted so fast. I studied so much during that time. I actually read Sun Tzu’s Art of War. I studied right into Kuwait. I remember all of my soldiers sleeping one night in the large bunker that housed our entire unit, and I had my headlamp on trying to learn the routes of Baghdad. I had several dilemmas over whether I should be in the lead or the last vehicle of my squad. I spoke to my First Sergeant in Kuwait about this, and his vague advice to me was to, “Follow my heart”. I eventually decided to lead from the front, which I will always be convinced was the best idea I ever had. I never believed I would be seriously injured, and not able to lead my squad back to safety.

What was it like working with the Iraqi people?

TH: Working with the Iraqis was just fucking crazy. Their culture had been based on corruption and the ‘highest dollar’ idea for thousands of years, and it was a fear-based model, which doesn’t allow for individual thinkers. The United States was trying to teach them to be individual thinkers in just a few years, and we had to train them to be police officers in one year.  It seemed an almost impossible task.

What were some of the rewarding times over there?

TH: I remember feeling so sad the first day I went out of the FOB, because I saw these barefoot kids playing in sewer water about 20 feet away from a dead body. This feeling eventually turned into a sense of pride, because I knew our unit would have a direct effect on the police, which could change things like that.

The time I was in Iraq was very short and ended up being around a month altogether, and during that time there was an interpreter in our unit I was very close to. She was so brave, actually living on the FOB with her husband.  I remember asking her what life was like before we were there. She told me about stories of entire families disappearing at night. She said she was so thankful for the Americans helping the country change into something better.  

What do you remember about the day you were injured?

TH: We were on our way to pick up an interpreter and during that mission, I received a call on the radio from one of my young team leaders.  He informed me that there was boiling hot liquid spewing out from the truck vents all over him.  The thought of that was so fucking funny. We ended up having to tow that vehicle back from downtown Baghdad which took hours.  By the time we arrived back at the FOB it was much later than if we’d gone through the entirety of the mission. We were done transferring the vehicle over to the motor pool and I was handing my paperwork into operations.  My operations sergeant asked if we completed the mission and I told him, “No.”

Of course, he told us to get back out there and complete it. My soldiers and I were all pretty pissed about it but we went back out. We were about 10 minutes outside the FOB and traveling under this overpass that we went under everyday, when an incredibly loud blast went off. I was told later that it was an EFP (Explosively Formed Penetrator) and it hadn’t fully charged. It was only 5 feet from my door and if it had been even another foot out it would have fully charged. Those EFPs are just horrible things. It turned out that the one that hit me was command detonated which meant those cowards were watching my truck.  The EFP had been spray painted to look like the fucking curb. It was definitely obscured. The enemy in Iraq was very sneaky.

Do you remember the blast?

TH: I remember every second, and every detail of the blast.  When I think about what happened it’s all in slow motion and that’s how I know I was in shock.  It was dreamlike. I remember looking down and seeing the cross section of the bottom part of my leg.  My femur and muscle were showing. There was a profusion of blood. For some reason, I turned to my driver and asked him if he was okay.  He looked at me and gave me a thumbs up although he clearly was not okay. Blood was spurting out of his jugular vein with every heartbeat.  It was absolutely the weirdest fucking thing I have ever been through in my entire life. It felt like something from a movie. The Kevlar from inside the door had turned to white powder and it covered everything, except the inside of our eyes. It made us all look like ghosts, and luminous red blood covered everything.

I remember being so sleepy on the way back to the FOB (Forward Operating Base), but then I had visions of things that would happen if I died. I saw my mom’s tears falling into my grave at my funeral. I managed to stay awake until we got back to the FOB, then when the medics put the oxygen over my face, I lost consciousness as my heart stopped. For the next 18 minutes the medical professionals attempted to restart it. My brain was without oxygen for long enough for part of it to die, and cause a tremor-based movement disorder throughout my entire body.


How much pain were you initially?

TH:  Not until my soldiers put me on the gurney did I feel a lot of pain. My leg was an afterthought. It was still attached to my tendons and skin but It wasn't on the gurney like it should be. I remember looking down and seeing the heel of my boot sticking up. I thought, “Oh my fucking God, could you guys have put it on the gurney properly?” and then it started to hurt (laughs). I knew I should feel pain, which is the weirdest thing, but I didn’t for the first few minutes after the blast. It’s hard to explain.

When did the worst of the pain kick in?

TH: The worst pain I felt was the first few years I was at BAMC in San Antonio (now SAMMC). About 6 months in I started to have severe bone pain, which is different from soft tissue or nerve pain. I was diagnosed with HO (or heterotopic ossification) which happens in blast or burn victims. It’s where the stem cells get confused and just form bone like crazy. It eventually formed an anchor-like structure at the end of my short leg (the medical term is stump). It was chiseled away in 2008, and since then, more has grown in its place. I also had a neuroma (a ball of nerves fried on the ends) removed in 2009. I have pain every single day but over the years, it's become manageable. I have a pain pump in my back that delivers a small amount of narcotics directly into my spine.  About a year after my injury I finally got up on a prosthetic and it was never even close to easy for me to use. I went to Washington D.C. and they did x rays to determine why it was so hard for me to walk. Turns out, the muscle on the inside of my leg was completely detached.

I came back from D.C. and sat in a room with all of my doctors. I asked them how in the hell this was possibly happening to me. They informed me that my femur was so short, just under 3”, not long enough to attach to anything. My orthopedic doctor had a suggestion I try leg lengthening surgery.  I told them to fucking sign me up. That was actually the most horrible decision I ever made (laughs). They put an external fixator on me, which is a frame that has pins that go through your leg. I had to turn these screws everyday for 6 fucking months and it pulled my femur apart causing it to fill with new bone. This was indescribably excruciating. I had to agonize over turning the screws every day for 6 months. After all of that, they ended up only getting another 2 inches of bone in my femur. This happened right before I was getting ready to separate from the Army.  I told them I was done and didn’t care if I ever walked again. It was during this time I felt as if I couldn’t heal because I was constantly in so much pain. I was on a ridiculous amount of narcotics and my doctors felt if I decreased the amount I would feel better. I thought they were fucking crazy! I mean, does that sound real to you?

My doctors put me on what’s known as rapid detox - which was basically an induced ketamine coma for enough time to get the meds out of my system and have all the withdrawals before I woke up. My doctor seriously miscalculated the time, and when I came out I was in full blown withdrawal from the narcotics. It was probably 2:30 in the morning and no doctors were in the ICU.  I have never been in withdrawal before, and my skin felt like it was turning itself inside out. I couldn’t sit still, my back was weirdly twitching, and I began to fight with anyone I could, pleading for them to give me something to help. During this incident, I flung off my hospital gown (one of the NCO’s at the hospital later told me she walked by my room and saw me struggling with three men completely naked) and I accidentally pulled out the lead to my epidural from the leg-lengthening surgery earlier that day. The pain didn’t even phase me. The nurses there that night had to restrain my wrists and ankles to the bed. If I had a gun I would have killed myself in that moment for sure.

So there was no prosthetic for you?

TH: I don’t think a prosthetic is in the cards for me yet. I got a call a few years ago from my local VA. It was from someone in the prosthetics department, wondering if I had thought about walking again. I told him no and I almost hung up but he kept me on the phone by asking me if I thought about dancing, or running or doing any of the things that I could no longer do. Then he told me that the VA had some new technology, and he thought I could get up on a leg within a week. When my dad and I walked into the VA a few days later, there was a huge round table with all these strangers sitting around it. After an awkward silence, and unsure as to why I was there, a woman told me they looked through my records and determined I wouldn’t be a good candidate for a prosthetic at this time.  My dad and I looked at each other and said, “Why the fuck did you call us here in the first place?” It was horrible. Right now, I’m content to be in a wheelchair. As much as I hate the saying, it is what it is. I live by myself and do have issues getting around my current home with my wheelchair. I have big gouges in my walls and all my corners are rounded. It honestly doesn't bother me. I still drive and do my own shit. I’ve learned to cope and I’ve come to terms with it.

What was the most difficult part of your rehab?

TH: The most difficult part of rehab was probably going to PT and dealing with the Physical Therapist.  My first appointment was probably about two weeks after I was admitted. A physical therapist rolled me over from my back to my stomach which was incredibly painful.  I was screaming in pain laying on my leg in that position. A physical therapists found an egg crate mattress pad and brought it to me. She cut out a hole for my leg in it so I wouldn’t lay on my hip. It was awesome of her but I wasn’t happy at the time. That was the first physical therapy I had. I was a horrible patient and very abusive to everyone. They came in one day and told me I was going to get up.

I said, “Fuck no, I’m not getting up. How about you get out of my room or I’m gonna fucking kill you.” They brought this huge throne-like chair into my room, and they made me sit in it for 30 minutes a day. My mom was so embarrassed because of the way I treated everyone. They eventually took me down to physical therapy. I hated being in that room because everyone else was a man. Men in the military are fine normally but when they are injured they become big babies (laughs). They finished the Center for the Intrepid in 2007 and I started going over there for my PT.  The process of rehabilitation still sucked, but not as badly.

When you look back are you grateful now for them?

TH: I am definitely grateful for those physical therapists now looking back. I’m so thankful to my Occupational Therapist for giving me this idea of jewelry design that changed my life.

How did the Occupational Therapist help you come up with this idea?

TH: I was a 30 year old woman with visible tremors. I went from being this very independent woman to someone who needed help for the most basic of tasks.  It was more difficult for me to come to terms with than my amputation because I was reminded every day that I had permanent brain damage. I remember going into my OT appointments and half-ass working on all sorts of crafts. One day, my therapist suggested I try a hobby that used my fine motor skills. She said it might help me regain some of the control back in my hands. I started with this huge wooden bead. I was trying to thread it with a leather cord. I sat there for hours trying to thread that bead. I couldn’t do it and it was so frustrating for me, but once I accomplished that I moved to a smaller bead and kept progressing down until I eventually got down to tiny seed beads. In time I could thread those too. It was amazing how fast my brain figured out new pathways and to see it happening right before my eyes was unbelievable. One day I realized that my movement disorder was almost gone. My tremors were so horrible before I started creating jewelry, and working with jewelry helped.  


Were you married at the time this happened?

TH: I was married to my second husband at the time. Turns out, he couldn’t keep his dick in his pants. When I came back from my deployment, I went through two years of a very dark depression and I gained so much weight.  I probably gained 50 pounds in two years. My self-hatred and shame were at an all-time high. In 2008 I went sea kayaking in the Caribbean and every day of the trip I wished he was there. The night I came home I found his phone laying in the kitchen with a new message on it.  It read, “That was an awesome booty call. Let me know the next time your wife goes out of town.”  Further investigation revealed he was unfaithful our entire marriage, even before I was injured. I hacked into his Facebook and other websites he frequented, and two days later had gathered enough evidence to finally ask him to leave. I sold everything of his that he left including his Army gear, clothes, his truck, boat, motorcycle, guitars, amplifier… everything.  I used all of those proceeds to remodel my studio. It turned out good for me in the end (laughs).

How did you get the feeling of purpose back?

TH: I’m not really even sure how I got my feeling of purpose back. Most likely, from working every day and having something to look forward to. I made jewelry for two years before I ever showed it to anyone. The closet was full of finished work because I didn’t have the self-confidence to show it to anyone. There was so much of myself entertwined in the pieces that I didn’t know what I would do if people didn’t like the jewelry. Criticism would have devastated me. Eventually, I realized that I wasn’t creating jewelry just for myself.  The biggest part of creating these pieces was about making others happy as well. It was magical watching women try on a piece of my jewelry - I would watch as it seemingly transformed them almost instantly.

The most impactful epiphany for me was when I finally learned not to let it affect me when people didn’t like my work.  I didn’t need the approval of others to make me feel better, and I knew my jewelry was solely for them to feel better about themselves.  Those who loved my work would be my customers and those that didn’t, wouldn’t be. If I could make jewelry and have the income to sustain myself without making a profit I would give all of it away (laughs).  I feel strongly about this too.

How long does it take to make a piece?

TH: When it comes to length of time creating my jewelry, it really depends on the piece. Some pieces take literally minutes, while others take weeks to finish. I usually listen to TV or Podcasts while I’m working and it makes times pass more quickly. I’ve been listening to The Sopranos while I work. The most awesome benefit to having a brain injury is I can watch things over and over again and not realize it (laughs).  I could have watched it a hundred times and I wouldn’t even remember.

I keep all the tiny scraps and dust and turn them into the refinery. I get about 60% back. I will melt fine silver and 22k or 24k gold scrap down and use to make wire but I can’t do that with the alloy of sterling silver I use. When it’s melted without refinery equipment, the consistency of the metal will change. The silver can get bubbles or become lumpy sometimes.  

What is the inspiration for the Thin Line Collection?

TH: The Thin Line Collection was inspired by the time in my life when I was most depressed.  I felt like there was nothing separating me from committing suicide and I contemplated it many times.  This collection represents the line between life and death. It’s a very seductive piece.

How do potential customers order your jewelry?

TH: There are many ways to order. They can go to my website (www.tarahutchjewelry.com) and easily order one-of-a-kind or limited edition jewelry; they can fill out a form on my commission page to order custom jewelry. There are ordering capabilities on Instagram and Facebook, and I also have my jewelry in locations across the United States. I was on Fox News in October of 2018 and I received so many orders after that.  It helped out tremendously.

When the piece of jewelry is bigger does that make the design aspects of it tougher?

TH: The size is not always a factor in the difficulty of designing the piece, but it may mean it takes longer to finish.  Usually the determining factor for complexity is if there are gemstones involved. If so, it means it will take expediantially more time to finish. Also, finishing techniques can be very time consuming. Some pieces may take 400 or 500 hours to complete. When I look at the pieces I’ve completed I don’t think of what I went through in Iraq or my physical injuries, but the time I’ve spent on the work of art I just finished.

Where do you get your stones for your jewelry?

TH: I have several people that I go to for the gems I use in production.  There is a person in Thailand and a person in Australia that I get sapphires from. The gemstone capital of the world is in Thailand, where a majority of my stones come from.  

What do see for the future of Tara Hutch designs and studio?

TH: I would love to employ other veterans and teach them how to make jewelry.  The art of making jewelry and watching it through the process is amazing. I love seeing the pieces finished in my hands. These skills are all beneficial to veterans and teaching them would be amazing.  The details of the work can help them improve their lives.


What is the hardest part of the jewelry making process for you?

TH: I think the most challenging part of making jewelry is starting a new collection. In order for me to create a cohesive collection of jewelry that looks like it belongs together, I have to look at trends and color schemes, past collections and what other designers are creating. It usually takes a few months, which means I have to plan ahead - something I’m not very good at right now.

Where do you get inspiration for your pieces?

TH: Honestly, it’s the stones that inspire me. For example, I bought a piece of Damascus Steel that had been cut and polished into a cabochon shape which I designed a piece around. Sometimes I create multiple pieces for a particular gemstone, which I then have to narrow down to a single one. I’m also galvanized by movement, a shape or surface pattern I see in ancient jewelry, as well as the person I am designing it for (if it’s a custom piece).

There are so many different techniques in jewelry design.  I could have chosen to enamel, forge, chase or repousse, cut gemstones, engrave, use non-traditional materials, or any combination of these.  When I first started I basically tried them all to see which was the one I would want to do the most. The first commission I made was for a chaplain I met at BAMC. He brought gemstones back from Afghanistan, and wanted me to set them in a ring for his wife.  I made a beautiful piece for her.

What would you tell someone if they were thinking of joining the Army?

TH: The Army is the best thing that ever happened to me.  I know it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done but by far the most rewarding.  I believe that everyone should do it at some point in their lives. It prepared me to handle potentially difficult situations in life.  

What would you say to people wanting to get back in shape about Catch A Lift Fund?

TH: Catch A Lift Fund is so willing and able to help veterans.  They know that there is more to becoming healthy than working out. They understand where the veteran has traveled emotionally, and what they continue to go through daily.  

Is it helpful when veterans step out of their shell and seek help?

TH: It’s great when veterans can step out of that shell and seek the help they need. When someone is at the point where they can actually push their ego aside and ask for help, it is a huge step. Catch A Lift Fund helped me with that.

What got you over the hump in asking for help?

TH: There were several years where I was just doing whatever the fuck I wanted to do.  I was trying everything, even things that could hurt me. I think the thing that made me realize I couldn’t do this alone was when my driver in Iraq committed suicide about 5 years ago. He went back to Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri where our unit was from too early, without getting the proper help at BAMC to deal with his self-hate. It eventually destroyed him. I haven’t fully made it over that hump yet concerning my own self-loathing, but I’m working on it.

What specifically did Catch A Lift Fund help you with?

TH: Catch A Lift Fund has helped me make a plan for proper nutrition and they provided me with a Concept 2 Rower.  I feel like that’s been such an important step in my fitness journey. CAL has taught me the importance of becoming active again. They have also taught me to study my heroes; to live in today, not the past or the future, to embrace compassion, and they inspire me to be a better person.

What is your interaction with Lynn like?

TH: Lynn Coffland is just an amazing woman.  She is so thoughtful and such a genuine person. One of those magnetic people that instantly makes your mood improve when she’s nearby.

What do you want to do with your fitness journey?

TH: I would really like to get back into skiing on a regular basis.  I remember watching the Olympics and being inspired to ski again. I have always been pretty good at sports but now that I am injured I feel I have a mental edge. The determination is there for sure.   I really feel like Catch A Lift Fund can help me get there.

Have you always been that determined?

TH: My mom said that I was born determined.  She always had stories of me being stubborn as a child.  If I was told me not to do something it was guaranteed I would (laughs).


How did you get approached by Catch A Lift Fund?

TH: I actually approached Catch A Lift Fund a few years back because I wanted to see what they offered.  I had no idea they gave sports equipment to veterans. Whenever I ride my hand cycle I have to coordinate with other people for logistics and safety, which means I can only ride twice a week.  I needed to brainstorm another way to train. Having no use of the largest muscle groups in the body makes it difficult to design a good cardio workout. Lynn helped me come up with a plan to use a rower to help build core strength, and get a cardiovascular workout. I initially heard CAL had an 18 month waiting list for new sports equipment grants which meant I would have to wait a year and a half to get a rowing machine.   She had a rower sent to me within a few days of our conversation, and flew down here from Connecticut to help me set it up. I’m very blessed to have her in my life. She is an amazing person.

What would you say to people that are nervous about asking for help?

TH: I’ve said this before in other interviews but you can’t be afraid to ask for help.  The people that survive are the ones that ask for help during the most difficult times. You need to reach out.  Lynn didn’t wait for me to ask for help. She flew down here, bought me groceries, and she showed me how to plan meals and prep my food.  Those tools have undoubtedly helped me, and will continue to be useful throughout my life.

We know that Tara’s example can be utilized by many in their journey to find new life. An example like this doesn’t have to be just for the veteran, but can also serve anyone finding themselves stuck in the storm. Your path won’t always be smooth, recovery won’t always be unblemished, and your mission may seem fraught with peril. SFC Hutchinson found herself as a victim of circumstances few can imagine, but she fought through the pain, redefining her own path.

We’d like to thank Tara Hutchinson for being a part of The Veterans Project. You can check her work out at www.tarahutchjewelry.com, on Instagram: @tarahutchjewelry, and on Facebook: Tara Hutch Jewelry. We’d once again like to thank Catch A Lift Fund for helping Tara in her journey, and creating a positive impact through fitness. We’ve enjoyed the partnership, moving forward with the knowledge that telling your story openly and honestly has a hugely positive mental impact on our community. CAL sponsored this particular project and we’re very thankful for the partnership. Check them out at www.catchaliftfund.org, on Instagram: @catchaliftfund, or Facebook: Catch A Lift Fund.

Tim K