Written By: Delaney Higert
A little over three years ago, a Massachusetts mother, seven months pregnant at the time, was violently attacked in her home by her then-husband, a combat veteran who had a history of aggression and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Some 6,500 miles across the world, in Zhari, Afghanistan, a Unites States infantryman from Connecticut stepped on an IED, resulting in the loss of his left arm and leg.
These two individuals, with their uniquely tragic stories, were drawn to the Military Veteran Project (MVP), a national non-profit that is committed to prevention of military suicide through treatment and research.
What they found, instead, was a loving spouse.
Zac and Allie Gore, who met through MVP in the fall of 2014, married this June and had their first child on Aug. 10 – a little girl named Lilly.
The pair now lives in Connecticut, raising the newborn and their three other children from Allie’s first marriage – Ashlyn, 5, Brogan, 4, and Finn, 3.
A move in the right direction
Zac Gore, 30, was sent to the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio after the IED explosion in 2013.
He recovered at BAMC and was sent to El Paso, Texas where he had been stationed before his deployment.
“Once I got back to El Paso, they didn’t really know how to handle someone with my type of injuries. They had never really had anyone like that before,” he said. “My wife at the time wasn’t really happy with the treatment and care that I was getting.”
Upon his previous wife’s request, Military Veteran Project took on his case, he said.
After a few weeks of phone discussions about his medical care, Zac Gore said Jarboe decided to visit him in Texas to ensure his treatment and rehabilitation would be handled properly.
“She talked with everyone and figured out what the best course of action would be and got a lot of our paperwork straightened out, which was really good because there was a lot of things that I didn’t even know about that needed to be done,” he said.
During the course of the following year, Zac Gore completed strenuous physical therapy, medically retired from the Army, obtained a divorce and said he found himself ready to move back to his home state of Connecticut.
Once there, he became more involved with Military Veteran Project and said Jarboe helped find ways for him to reintegrate into the community by volunteering with the organization.
One of those ways was for Zac to share his story for the annual MVP Salute Our Heroes Gala in Topeka, Kan.
This gala, he said he later realized, helped him find his soul mate.
An instant click
An MVP Facebook group message had been created for the 2014 gala, the Gore’s said.
In it, they had their first interaction.
“I just put a message in their that thanked everyone for their service,” Allie Gore said. “And Zac sent a little embarrassed face emoji. So I messaged him outside of the group and just thanked him for his service again.”
Allie couldn’t attend the gala, but the pair continued messaging until Zac returned home to Connecticut later that week.
The day of Zac’s arrival – which Allie said she remembers was Tuesday, Nov. 5 – she happened to be in the same city as him for her job. She made the 15-minute drive to meet him and “really, everything took off from there,” she said.
The duo went on their first date that Friday, Allie Gore said.
“Then, two days later, he came up for dinner. And then he was with us every day ever since,” she said.
“It was like that instant click. You just feel like you’ve known someone for your entire life. That instant click. Everything just felt right.”
Allie and her children moved to Connecticut to live with Zac shortly after.
“It was like that almost too good to be true feeling, “ Allie Gore said, “Everything fell into place perfectly.”
After dating for roughly a year and half, the two were engaged and married by a Justice of the Peace two months later, on June 4.
The Gore’s said they planned an Aug. 20 wedding date, but the news of their pregnancy changed things.
Learning how to be strong
Allie Gore, 29, said her involvement with Military Veteran Project started after the first domestic violence dispute with her ex-husband in 2013.
“He completely lost it one day and smashed my head against the refrigerator. Then the SWAT team came and he had barricaded himself and our youngest in the house,” Allie Gore said.
The case was severe enough for the Department of Children and Families to get involved, Allie Gore said, which is when she reached out to founder of MVP, Melissa Jarboe, for support.
Jarboe and the organization helped Allie through her ensuing court dates, custody battles and domestic violence meetings with program support, she said.
In the summer of 2014, Allie Gore said she moved back in to the home of her now ex-husband, after counseling, in an attempt to unite their family.
This resulted in a second brutal attack, not a month after her return, that left Allie with temporal nerve damage, deep tissue and bone contusions and the need to undergo cortisone injections every six months to manage her continuing pain and headaches.
When her spouse at the time was arrested, Allie Gore said, Jarboe was the first person she called.
“I had an instant flow of support,” she said. “Eventually, I started making sure I was staying on the right path for me and my kids. And learning how to be strong for myself instead of dealing with everybody else.”
With the help and support from the Military Veteran Project, Allie Gore said she persevered through the months that followed, filed for divorce and found herself ready to move into a VFW home with her three children.
Then, she said, she met Zac.
An MVP baby
After suffering a miscarriage earlier in their relationship, Allie Gore said finding out about Lilly enthralled them.
“When we knew we were having Lilly, it was just an, ‘Oh my god, it’s actually happening this time,’” she said.
Once reality set in for the couple, they said they first reflected on how their paths crossed in the first place.
The organization of MVP was started in honor of Jamie Jarboe, Melissa Jarboe’s husband who was wounded by a sniper’s bullet in Afghanistan and later passed away.
The Gore’s said the reason for the non-profit’s creation is not lost on them.
“It’s just crazy to think that none of this would have happened if Melissa would have never come into the picture,” Allie said of her new family. “We wouldn’t have known each other if we had never gotten involved with Melissa. So, Lilly is her pride and joy. Her MVP baby, as she calls her.”
The Gore’s said that Jarboe played an important role in Lilly’s early life, even placing her name on the short list of people who received the first photograph of the family that included Lilly.
“She cried when we sent her that first picture with Lilly,” Allie said, “And I think it’s because, you know, a life create a life, if that makes sense. Jamie’s passing created a new life.”
A whole new world
Zac and Allie Gore both agree that their newfound family was created through a course of miraculous events, starting with MVP.
“We still talk with all of our MVP friends and volunteers,” Zac Gore said.
“They’re more like family than anything now, though,” his wife chimed in. “And Melissa. She’s stuck with us, forever.”
Zac is unable to work and Allie is his full-time caretaker, they said, so the couple plans on continuing to raise their family and helping to support MVP in the future.
“We’re having our informal, formal wedding in October,” Allie Gore said. “It will just be at our home and we’re inviting family, our MVP friends, of course, and Melissa and a few others.”
The Gore’s said the past two and a half years have been an eye-opening experience, especially for the new father.
“It’s been awesome,” Zac Gore said, smiling. “I love every second of it.”
“He’s pretty good at doing that daddy stuff with one arm, too,” Allie Gore added.
The pair said people like to poke fun at their quick turn around from dating to living together to married with a newborn, but the jokes don’t bother them.
“Everyone thought we we’re kind of crazy, but it’s like the perfect fit,” Allie Gore said. “It’s like a whole new world for the both of us.”