The Outstanding Civilian Service Medal was recently awarded to Dr. Kimberly RyAnne Noss at a ceremony held during Special Operations Forces Week, May 18. The Alabama native and wife of Sgt. 1st Class Scot Noss was recognized for her dedication to Special Operations Forces, wounded warriors and their families.
“She has been an inspiration and beacon of hope to the spouses she mentors, their families and all of those she encounters,” said Navy Adm. Eric T. Olson, commander of U.S. Special Operations Command. “She has also led the way in researching alternative treatments for Traumatic Brain Injuries that will affect servicemembers with TBIs and their families for years to come.”
Dr. Noss was spurred to action in February 2007 after her husband was severely injured in a MH-47 Chinook helicopter crash in Afghanistan. Sergeant Noss suffered a traumatic brain injury, leaving him minimally conscious and completely dependent on others for daily living activities.
Since that time, Dr. Noss became an advocate for her husband’s health care and rehabilitation, ensuring he and other severely injured warriors receive every chance to reach their maximum rehabilitation potential.
“I was pleasantly shocked during the surprise announcement of the outstanding civilian service award. I had no idea that I was receiving it,” said Dr. Noss. “I am very honored that the SOCOM community recognized me for my efforts advocating for my husband and severely wounded warriors.”
She acknowledged however that her motivation comes from her husband and other severely wounded warriors because it is the right thing to do and not for the recognition.
“There is still so much that needs to be done for our severely wounded, injured and ill operators. I am very blessed that SOCOM has given me the platform and support needed to help fight for our wounded, injured and ill,” Dr. Noss said.
Her determination, intelligence, sense of humor, faith and fierce loyalty to her husband serves as an inspiration to all who meet her, said Mrs. Marilyn Olson, wife of Admiral Olson and wounded warrior advocate.
“I met RyAnne soon after my husband took command at SOCOM close to four years ago. We were visiting our SOF wounded at James A. Haley veteran’s hospital and Scot had recently been transferred there,” she said.
“What stood out most to me from the beginning was RyAnne’s selflessness. Her selflessness with regard to Scot goes without saying. What makes her even more extraordinary to me is that she is determined to make everything she has learned and fought for and every treatment that Scot has undergone, make a difference in another wounded warrior’s life,” said Mrs. Olson.
Since 2007, the Noss’ journey has taken them to three different hospitals in three different states, where Sgt. 1st Class Noss was enrolled in several experimental treatments for severe disorders of consciousness.
“When Scot was approved to receive some experimental treatment at the Kessler Institute in New Jersey, I went to visit them before they left,” recounted Mrs. Olson. “She let us know that even if Scot doesn’t improve from this treatment, the experiments will help those who come after him: ‘It’s Scot’s way of still serving,’ she said.”
While Dr. Noss has been an advocate for her husband and other severely wounded warriors, she has also helped raise the visibility of caregivers and the challenges they face.
“RyAnne was the first person to raise awareness of a mother who had lost her health care insurance because she had to quit her job to care for her wounded warrior son,” said Mrs. Olson. “The Department of Defense has stepped up to right this problem. I know she was definitely one catalyst for this change.”
Dr. Noss is currently working with the Veterans Affairs administration on the National Caregiver Conference, tentatively scheduled for the beginning of August. The event is slated to bring together caregivers from all eras, including World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Desert Shield, Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
“I encourage my fellow caregivers to take a day at a time. Sometimes I would even have to take a breath at a time,” said Dr. Noss. “I surround myself with positive, uplifting family and friends that help navigate my journey. There will be days that you want to quit and days that you can’t even get out of bed, but take the needed time to focus and persevere on.”
After three years in hospitals, the Nosses recently settled into a completely handicap accessible home built by Homes for our Troops.
“Scot is doing amazing at home and we are truly blessed with wonderful advocates from the Care Coalition,” said Dr. Noss. “I honestly do not know what I would do without their dedication. The entire staff works endless hours for every Special Operations operator and I am proud to call them family,” she said.
While quick to praise others for their support and dedication, those close to Dr. Noss report that her contributions serve as their inspiration.
“Having had the opportunity to know RyAnne for an extended period has had a deep impact on me personally,” said Mrs. Olson. “I have had a glimpse of the tremendous, life-altering sacrifice we have asked of them and so many others. I know that I will be an advocate for our wounded and their caregivers for the rest of my life.”