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Newlywed husband plans second wedding for wife who lost memory in car wreck

Jeremy and Justice Stamper pose on their wedding day in August. Due to a traumatic brain injury she sustained in a car wreck, Justice Stamper says she can no longer remember getting married. (Photo courtesy of Justice Stamper)

Jeremy Stamper remembers his wedding day as the best day in his life.

The August ceremony was rustic and quaint, unfolding in front of 75 family and friends overlooking a lake at Hungry Mother State Park in Marion,Va.

“It was hectic at first, but once it actually started getting underway I was so lost in my love with my wife that I didn’t pay attention to anything else,” the 21-year-old, who met his wife 11 years earlier in Sunday school, told The Washington Post. “It was perfect, just perfect.”

Almost a year later, only one thing could make that memory any better: sharing it with his wife, who no longer remembers saying “I do.”

Only 19 days after the couple’s wedding, Justice Stamper was rear-ended in a traffic accident that sent her Ford Focus screeching across a Marion roadway before smashing into an embankment.

The violent collision slammed the 20-year-old’s head into her car’s steering wheel, causing her brain to bounce back and forth inside her skull. She was left with a traumatic brain injury known as a coup-contrecoup. Due to damage she sustained on the left side of her brain, several months of short term memories were wiped away, including her wedding, she told The Post.

The next month of slow recovery felt like a dream, Justice Stamper said. Dazed from medication, suffering from headaches and sleeplessness, Stamper — who was living with her husband’s family at the time — found herself living in a home she didn’t recognize, looking at wedding photos on the wall she couldn’t place. What was once familiar felt strangely foreign and she began to quietly worry that she was losing her mind.

“After about a month and a half later I went to Jeremy and said, ‘I don’t want you to be mad, but I do not remember the wedding at all,'” Justice Stamper told The Post, noting that at the time she wasn’t even sure she was married. “I was so scared to tell him, but the first thing he said was, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll do it again.’ He didn’t even hesitate.”

Even so, Jeremy Stamper called his wife’s inability to recall their wedding date “heartbreaking.” He said the pair still avoid discussing their wedding because it’s too upsetting.

“It’s that one memory that you assume you’ll be able to happily share with your spouse for the rest of your lives,” he told The Post. “Not being able to talk about it is frustrating, but once we have a second wedding we’ll be better off as a couple.”

For Jeremy Stamper — a college student at King University in Bristol, Tenn., with a part-time job — saving enough money for a second wedding has been no easy task. Complicating matters, the couple said, is the fact that Justice’s injuries forced her to drop out of school and quit her job.

She’s been unable to return to work and has suffered short-term memory problems, difficulty speaking and acute anxiety, which has made it difficult for her to get back on the road. She told The Post that her therapist, Denise Miller, diagnosed Stamper with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but she’s gradually improving and hopes to return to school and get a degree in criminal justice.

Jeremy Stamper stuck to his promise, but knew he would need help raising the money for a new ceremony. He started a Gofundme page requesting $5,000 to help the couple create “a memory that we both can talk about and reminisce without someone getting upset.”

The page has raised more than $9,800 and the couple said other married couples struggling with PTSD have reached out to them with words of support. He said his wife’s challenges have helped him become more patient and understanding, making him a better husband.

“There’s been a lot of pressure, but our bond is just a lot stronger now,” he said.

The wedding is scheduled for Aug. 1, their one-year anniversary. They’re expecting twice as many guests at this year’s celebration, which will be held at the original location. Justice Stamper said she plans to wear a new dress.

A local DJ and photographer have offered their services at no cost, and the Stampers have been offered a six-night honeymoon in Myrtle Beach free of charge.

The celebration and the guest list may have changed, but the Stampers said the biggest difference between each wedding will be the two people walking down the aisle.

“We’re going to cherish the moment this time around,” Jeremy Stamper said. “All we have is memories and they can be taken from you in an instant and then they’re gone forever.”

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