Big surprise for military widow in time for the holidays - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Big surprise for military widow in time for the holidays

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - Every year, Sears helps brighten the holiday season of an active or veteran military member. On Monday, they presented a woman who has seen more than her share of hard times with a $2,000 gift card.

Jennifer Reichard's Naval career was suddenly cut short.

"I had cancer at age 22," she said.

But with loving support from her husband Jared, she found the courage to go back to school. Then tragedy hit again.

"Jared had cancer at age 24," she said.

He died when Kathryn was just 16 months old. Jennifer knew she had to be strong for her daughter, but just 2 years later, the Cedar Fire destroyed her home and everything she had. She broke down in then President Bush's arms as he toured her property.

"Meeting him, immediately I was crying, and that's what he's doing there, hugging me," she said.

There are plenty of reasons to feel sorry for Jennifer, but the truth is she still sees the glass half full, which is why she took a new job at the Navy Medical Center of San Diego, using what she's been through to help others.

"To work with the transitioning service members who occurred illness, injury or other losses, and I started using my own loss to help them accept theirs and move on with life," Jennifer said.

It's Jennifer's generosity toward others that led to a visit Monday morning from Sears, employees with bags filled with toys for Kathryn, and for Jennifer, a $2,000 dollar gift card to Sears.

"I'm still overwhelmed and I didn't expect it, especially after losing Jared so many years ago. Sometimes you feel like you're forgotten," she said.

Jennifer was nominated for Sears' Heroes at Home Program by several military groups that definitely haven't forgotten about her or Kathryn, who couldn't be prouder of her mom.

"I think that she's really special. She helps all the wounded soldiers and she's always there for me," Kathryn said.

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