WHITE PLAINS, MD (WUSA9) - Thousands of people across the country have set their own lives and careers aside to care for loved ones who have suffered injuries in America's long decades of war.
Now for some of them, a hero's reward.
Five women were just awarded full scholarships to the University of Maryland, University College. The "Pillars of Strength" scholarships are a partnership with The Blewitt Foundation and the Yellow Ribbon Fund.
Secret Brutley is one of the winners.
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She met her husband, Emmanuel Brutley, and fell in love just before the Iraq War.
"He was a fun, outgoing person," she said.
But he came home changed.
"He now was more reserved and distant. And I didn't understand," she said.
After eight years of service in the Navy, doctors diagnosed the vet with traumatic brain injury and PTSD.
"Their outbursts tend to be an embarrassment to us," said Brutley. "We try to shelter ourselves and make excuses. But...you don't have to make excuses."
Her husband struggles with mood swings, memory problems, and frustration. Playing with the kids helps.
And she never stopped loving him.
"I love him to the world and back," she said.
She's working full time, going to school, has three kids, and takes care of her husband.
"It is a ton. And it's a lot, because you want to have a career, you want to have the family. And you want to be sure you're being a good caregiver," she said.
The scholarship comes as great news.
"I was like so excited. I was like, 'Thank you Jesus!'"
Secret will get a full scholarship and expenses, as much $60,000 a year, to get her college degree, maybe a Masters, at the University of Maryland, University College.
"Finally a relief that all my hard work and effort has paid off. That I have something to show my kids. That you can do anything besides the roadblocks," she said.
There's no stopping her now.
Secret is considering a degree in human resources -- or maybe homeland security, so she can give something back to the country her husband served.
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