Despite not being a veteran herself, Kari Couch felt called to serve other veterans in the community and has been doing so with Team Rubicon for the past two years. Although Team Rubicon is a national response team that volunteers for disasters, Couch said they are very veteran-focused.
According to their website, “Team Rubicon is a nonprofit that utilizes the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams.”
In the fall of 2016, Couch went to Houston for a week to assist with disaster cleanup after Hurricane Harvey and has assisted with service projects for veterans each month since.
Recently, the Navy put out a request to Team Rubicon members that they needed role players, to simulate bad guys, in a training exercise for Navy special forces operators at the Zussman Urban Combat Training Center at Fort Knox. Being ever the adventurous one, Couch answered the call.
Kari’s husband Troy said she was engaging in munitions training at the mock embassy at Zussman and was engaged in a firefight, much like a simulated paintball battle, with a Navy SEAL when he threw a smoke bomb to disorient her. Disoriented and off balance, Kari fell off of a 12-foot berm into a concrete pit.
“She had a compound fracture in her ankle and a fractured elbow, both on the left side,” Troy said. “Lucky for her, there were Navy medics on scene. This went from a play scenario to a real-world scenario real quick.”
Troy said the medics knew they wouldn’t be able to transport her by ambulance so they airlifted her by helicopter to the University of Louisville.
“Kari has already had two surgeries and will need a third in the coming weeks,” Troy said. “They told us we would be in the hospital for at least a week, but they discharged her home where she could rest better.”
The hospital told Troy and Kari that they were sending them home with a wheelchair and potty chair — everything that she could possibly need to recover. It wasn’t until they were in the car on their way home from the hospital that Troy realized their home was not equipped for a wheelchair.
Troy said, amongst the hundreds of messages the couple received checking on Kari’s condition and asking if they needed anything, he received a text from Brandi Baker, the co-owner of Steve Baker Building. According to Troy, the Bakers not only built the Couch’s house, but Seth Baker is also their neighbor. So Troy responded honestly, believing it was ideal timing.
“Actually, I don’t know how I’m going to get her in and out of the house,” Troy responded. “Without hesitation, they built a ramp for us the next afternoon and it didn’t cost us anything. I wouldn’t even know where to begin to know what I’d need. They knocked it out in an hour and it looks nice. They built it in our garage so it wouldn’t affect the look of our house.”
Kari is currently wearing an external inhibitor, similar to a halo device, on her left leg that locks her bones into place.
“It looks like she’s going to be in a wheelchair the next two to three months,” Troy said. “It’s going to be a long road to recovery.”
With three boys at home, a 14-year-old and two 5-year-old twins, Troy is thankful for family and friends providing childcare and meals so he can focus on Kari.
“That ramp has been a godsend — it’s just going to make things so much easier,” Troy said.
As for the Bakers, they said they were just using the resources they had and being good neighbors.
“I didn’t do it for any, ‘thank yous,’” Seth said. “I was just glad I had the ability to do it.”