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Focused on the Finish Line: NBC, Indy 500 spotlight Fort Wayne family

Focused on the Finish Line

INDIANAPOLIS (Fort Wayne’s NBC) — On a weekend that honors those who died serving our country, NBC and the Indianapolis 500 put a spotlight on those whose lives didn’t end, but did change forever.

The “Hidden Heroes” project was launched by former U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole, who wanted to provide support and encouragement to the caregivers of veterans battling physical and emotional traumas.

On Thursday, TODAY on NBC used the opportunity to draw attention to the important cause, inviting Tom Hanks and Sen. Elizabeth Dole to share the stories of those who care for those men and women who served.

Hidden Heroes

“Hidden Heroes brings vital attention to the untold stories of military caregivers and seeks solutions for the tremendous challenges and long-term needs they face.”

TODAY live from Indy

According to the Hidden Heroes website, actor Tom Hanks, “uses his voice to bring attention to our nation’s military caregiving crisis. With his dedication to the campaign, we are breaking down barriers and providing military caregivers with the help they so desperately need.”

TODAY featured a Fort Wayne family involved with Hidden Heroes.  The Jenkins also talked with Fort Wayne’s NBC News about how the organization has helped them as they deal with the lasting impact of war.

Andrew Jenkins returned from Iraq and Afghanistan with physical and mental wounds.  His wife Aimmie is now his caretaker.  “He looks healthy and I think sometimes that is the biggest struggle,” Aimmie says.

Jenkins told Fort Wayne’s NBC about a day shortly after he returned home.  He went to the Spencerville Bridge determined to die by suicide.

“I had a rope, threw it over the rafter and for some reason it got stuck,” he remembers. “I was walking back to my car because I brought a second one, and my phone rings.”

It was Aimmie.

“She shows up and takes me to the VA and gets me help, and it was probably the hardest moment in my life, was realizing that I was so lost that I needed somebody stronger than myself.”

Aimmie became that person.  She didn’t enlist in the service, but she was drafted by circumstance to take care of one of the nation’s many wounded warriors, her husband.

The family has a better support system for their challenges now.

In Indianapolis this week: A celebration of those steps forward.

The Jenkins and their children played around with Hanks and with Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, then took in a special concert by Sheryl Crow at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The day was a way to get a message to others like the Jenkins. Help is available, and a first step to a better future involves a visit to the Hidden Heroes website.

Fort Wayne’s NBC will air a 30 minute special presentation Friday at 7 p.m. called “Focused on the Finish Line.”  The special includes several stories with Fort Wayne connections to this year’s Indy 500, which will air on NBC for the first time in race history.

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Tom Powell

Tom Powell is the co-anchor of Fort Wayne’s NBC News at 5, 6 and 11 with Linda Jackson. Tom is also the Assistant News Director at Fort Wayne’s NBC.

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