"No one knows why I didn't die"

  • Published
  • By Amn Jason W. Cochran

Resolve is the capability to get knocked down and get back up again. Life, especially a military one, has a tendency to challenge people, making this a crucial trait.

An example of incredible resolve is Senior Airman Jennifer Carrier, 319th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Detachment 1 unit deployment manager. The first notable demonstration of her strength came just before she was to join the U.S. Marine Corps.

“I got in a car accident with a bunch of my friends,” said Carrier. “There were eight of us in the car. Four of us died including my brother.”

This life changing event did not deter Carrier from pursuing a professional career. She earned her associates degree and shortly after that a bachelors with three majors. In addition to this she completed a fellowship with the United Nations in Salzburg, Austria. With this she was able to get a job at a large automotive tech company, until yet again she had to rely on her resolve.

“Things didn’t pan out,” said Carrier. “Our company was bought out by a larger one. They laid off everyone. It was a fight for survival at that point.”

While looking for a job, Carrier thought of joining the military. She looked up the age requirements and saw that just months prior the Air Force had raised the age limit, making it possible for her to pursue a dream she had for most of her life.

After joining it didn’t take long for life to throw another trial Carrier’s way.

“I was working out on the line and I felt like something might be wrong,” said Carrier. “I went home from work. I woke up in the middle of the night and felt like I was dying.”

Carrier had a kidney infection. Her body had gone into septic shock. Carrier’s leadership flew her family to Beale to say their goodbyes. The doctors had given her 72 hours to live.

It was in the Intensive Care Unit that Chief Master Sgt. Marbris Dillard, 319th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, Detachment 1 superintendent, first met Carrier.

“Honestly the Commander, First Sergeant, and I were scared that she might possibly die,” said Dillard. “The crazy part was that she was almost uncontrollably shaking, but she was still smiling as best she could. It was extremely scary to say the least. But from the very beginning I could tell that Carrier was one of the most resilient Airmen I had ever met.”

To the surprise of the doctors, and the relief of her family, Carrier survived. Not only did she survive, but made a full recovery and was able to return to active duty earlier than anticipated.

“No one knows why I didn’t die,” said Carrier. “I’m just lucky. According to the doctors, 92% of people who have sepsis as severe as I did don’t make it.”

Just two days after getting out of the ICU, Carrier was driving to the store. The chaos wasn’t over yet.

“A woman driving her van lost control and ended up landing her van on its roof. I stopped and I went to her,” said Carrier. “She was still in her seatbelt, stuck upside down, and she was eight months pregnant. Another guy and I cut her out of her seatbelt and dragged her to safety because the van was smoking and we were worried it would blow up.”

Both the woman and her unborn child survived without any permanent injuries in part due to Carrier’s actions. For this she was awarded an Achievement medal.

Following this series of events Carrier was selected for Senior Airman below the zone and became a unit deployment manager as an Airman First Class, a job regularly reserved for non-commissioned officers. Even through all of the trials, hardships, and general chaos, Carrier continues to impress her leadership as an example for her fellow Airmen.

“Carrier has gone through several hard times in her life, but she has overcome them all with a positive attitude and resolve,” said Dillard. “With so many of our brothers and sisters in arms going through rough situations, I feel that a story like Carrier’s can help them to understand that they can get through the bad times and be happy and more successful if they just ask for help to find the positive when it looks like there is none.”