Since Jesse was a Boy Scout, he realized how much he loved peace and protecting people, which is why in April 1987 he joined the U. S. Army National Guard. He did his Basic Training at Fort Dix, New Jersey.
Jesse deployed to Iraq in 2003 with the 178th Combat Engineers, where he was based at AL ASAD Airbase located in the western part of the country. In 2004, while on patrol guarding a bridge that was being built, his men came under mortar fire. Unfortunately, one of the shells landed near Jesse. The impact of the blast left him bleeding with a concussion and traumatic brain injury (TBI). For this, Jesse was awarded a Purple Heart.
After returning home, Jesse retired from the military with 20 years of service. Suffering from PTSD, he still has nightmares, migraines, and difficulty sleeping. “I have a hard time. It’s rough losing people,” he says.
Jesse married Tonjia, his childhood sweetheart in 2005. He recalls how supportive she was of him while he was in Iraq. He received something from her everyday, which is almost unheard of in a war zone. She helped him endure the loneliness, and sometimes despair, by encouraging him to stay strong and not to give up. “She lifted me up and gave me the strength to continue,” says Jesse.
In 2008, Jesse’s wife was diagnosed with Cancer, and it was a difficult road for both of them. But they were there for each other, staying strong. Tonjia would hug Jesse when he had a nightmare, crying with him and letting him know it was ok. Jesse tried to help his wife around the house and support her through her difficulties. Their relationship was based on strength and love for one another, and always with a positive attitude. Sadly, Jesse’s wife lost her battle with Cancer.
During that time, Purple Heart Homes replaced the carpet in the Gladney’s home that has been there for 16 years. Now Purple Heart Homes is helping Jesse get a new start with a new home.
Thank you for your service, Jesse, we appreciate you and your strength to persevere through the difficult times. We salute you and we are proud to have you as a member of our Purple Heart Homes family!