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She pledged to be by his side in sickness and in health. She didn’t let him down.

A year ago, a couple faced what they called 'the toughest year of our lives.' But they faced it together, and they’re stronger for it.

She pledged to be by his side in sickness and in health. She didn’t let him down.
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Paramount Pictures Ben Hur

We see people who stay strong in the face of insurmountable odds in movies and shows all the time, but there are heroes all around us.

Challenges are a part of life. But some have bigger and harder hurdles than others. Their inspiring stories remind us that all we are capable of greatness, that we are strong.


"Ben-Hur" hits theaters in the U.S. on Aug. 19. In preparation, Paramount asked viewers to share their moments of triumph over adversity using the hashtag #MyGreatestVictory on social media.  This is one of those stories.

On Aug. 13, 2015, Stephen Connolly hopped on his motorcycle and left for work at 4 a.m.

He’d had a tooth extraction the night before, and his wife, Laura was worried that he wasn’t well enough to head into work, especially since, as a warehouse operative, his job is physically demanding. She asked him to stay home, but he reassured her that he was OK.

‌Image via Dragunsk Usf/Flickr. ‌

Three minutes later, he got into an accident that would turn their world upside down.

Fortunately, Stephen's crash happened right in front of the local police and fire station and was able to receive help immediately.

"Having spoken with 2 police officers who witnessed the full accident it turns out he passed out while driving, slumped forward and accelerated the throttle, the bike lost control and he crashed into a metal bollard and then onto a large tree with the bike coming down on top of him, he was unconscious,” Laura said in an email.

When she got to the hospital, Laura found her husband broken.

Panic set in, but she knew she needed to be strong for him and for their 2-year-old son. And the news wasn’t good. Stephen was alive, but he’d sustained leg and ankle fractures and broken his shoulder and clavicle in seven places.

‌Image via Laura Mcevoy, used with permission. ‌

He was completely bedridden and she’d have to do everything for him.

That realization was hard on both of them. Said Laura, "He tried so hard to be my brave husband but you could see how much pain he was in." Life as they knew it had changed.

Stephen went from being an extremely independent and hardworking man to his wife’s patient. And Laura found herself balancing being a wife, mother, and caregiver.

Laura cared for Stephen 24/7, bathing him, feeding him, dressing him, and learning how to move him without affecting his healing body. And as they faced complication after complication — bones that wouldn’t heal, extra surgeries, blood clots — she didn’t waver. She said, "It was just a natural thing for me to ensure my husband was pain free, clean…" She takes her wedding vows seriously and "in sickness and health," she’d pledged to be by his side.

‌Image via Laura Mcevoy, used with permission. ‌

Laura leaned on her friends, family, and neighbors to get her through the darkest days.

She learned to take everything day by day and appreciate whatever kindness was offered. From friends who took their son for walks, to her mother and mother-in-law who dropped everything to care for her son so that she could care for Stephen, to the neighbors who knew what they were going through and dropped groceries off to show their support — every bit of kindness helped.

And most of all, Laura believed that their love would be the anchor holding them both together through the tough times.

She says that she and Stephen always knew they were meant to be, and one song in particular reminded her of that and gave her comfort. Rebekah Jordan’s "I Will Be Loyal to You":

When you have hard times, and all others

Are gone, I will be there when the troubles come, through sunshine or rain when no help can be found, things may seem hopeless but just look around

I will be there to the end with you, I'll do my best to be faithful and true, through the hardest of days we will choose the right ways,

My commitment I prove

I will be loyal to you







Laura and Stephen on their wedding day, via ELBE Photography. Used with permission.

‌Laura said, “Yes we had bad days, yes we had bad luck, we have had the hardest year of our life, but we have made it through…”

Their love and resilience in the face of Stephen’s accident reminds us of the power of love and — as cliché as it may seem — how fleeting life can be.

Everything can change in a moment. Today, Stephen is back at work. He’s not 100%, but he’s slowly rebuilding his strength. Their relationship is stronger than ever, though there are still challenges ahead. And Stephen never leaves home without kissing his son and his wife goodbye because they know now how quickly things can change and how important it is to show each other as much love as possible — every single day.

We've all had moments when it felt like life knocked us down and stood on us. But somehow, we get through those times.

Share your moments of triumph with Paramount using the #MyGreatestVictory hashtag. You never know who your story will inspire.

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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

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Dr. David McPhee offers advice for talking to someone living in a different time in their head.

Few things are more difficult than watching a loved one's grip on reality slipping away. Dementia can be brutal for families and caregivers, and knowing how to handle the various stages can be tricky to figure out.

The Alzheimer's Association offers tips for communicating in the early, middle and late stages of the disease, as dementia manifests differently as the disease progresses. The Family Caregiver Alliance also offers advice for talking to someone with various forms and phases of dementia. Some communication tips deal with confusion, agitation and other challenging behaviors that can come along with losing one's memory, and those tips are incredibly important. But what about when the person is seemingly living in a different time, immersed in their memories of the past, unaware of what has happened since then?

Psychologist David McPhee shared some advice with a person on Quora who asked, "How do I answer my dad with dementia when he talks about his mom and dad being alive? Do I go along with it or tell him they have passed away?"

McPhee wrote:

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