A 13-year Iraq War veteran, Deotha Hollis spent his career operating tanks — which often meant long periods of time inside the cramped confines of the steel combat vehicle.
“He was in for 13 years as a tanker, and during that 13 years there was just a lot of pressure on his back in such a cramped space,” Erin Hollis said.
In 2015 after Hollis herniated a disc, doctors diagnosed him with degenerative disc disease — a condition that causes one or more of the discs between your vertebrae to deteriorate or break down — as a result of his military service. After he was medically discharged, the Hollises found out Deotha’s injuries from his service went far beyond his back issues.
“Since then, we’ve found he’s got a lot more going on,” Erin Hollis said. She said Deotha’s now dealing with more back issues, and suffers from post traumatic stress disorder and two prior traumatic brain injuries.
And though transitioning to the dual role of caregiver and wife is challenging, Erin Hollis is hoping to spread the word about Hidden Heroes — an organization dedicated to support military caregivers.
“It’s really just a great organization helping caregivers and veterans, really just find out about more resources in the area, and find out where they can find more help,” Erin Hollis said. “It’s just been great.”
And though Johnson City has only been a Hidden Heroes city since early 2018, the group isn’t wasting any time getting involved in the community. Wednesday’s support group was just the second of a new monthly event, and on Saturday the group has an even bigger event — a family retreat.
Saturday, beginning at noon, they’ll have all of the Memorial Park Community Center to themselves, with more than three dozen people expected to enjoy a fun, family-friendly event.
“This is just a safe comfortable place where people can come and just be among peers, be among people who understand the struggles,” Erin Hollis said.