Toni Grimes: Retired - and Still Making a “Major” Difference
Toni always felt called to serve her community. At 19 she joined the Army, and proudly served nearly 20 years -- rising to the rank of Major -- before being struck by lupus.
In 2008, Toni was stationed in Afghanistan when she began experiencing kidney failure and was transported to a hospital via medevac. She continued serving for several years after her lupus diagnosis and was finally granted a medical retirement in 2011.
But neither retirement nor lupus has slowed Toni down – and it hasn’t defeated her spirt of service, either. Today, Toni serves the lupus community with equal distinction – and unflagging dedication.
As she explains, “Since retirement I have been an active lupus advocate, spreading awareness and sharing my story to help other lupus patients with their journey.”
After retirement, Toni wasted no time rededicating her life to service – and reclaiming it from lupus. In 2011, the year of her medical retirement, she attended Lupus Foundation of America’s National Policy Summit – the first of many.
“The summit was the first time that I had been surrounded by hundreds of others who were experiencing the things that I was going through and truly understood the impact this disease has on your physical, emotional and mental well-being,” she says.
Her summit participation has also given her the chance to speak to policymakers about the impact of lupus – and the urgent need for more research funding and education.
Today, Toni is a member of the Lupus Foundation of America’s Education Committee. She has represented her state of Arizona at four national policy summits in Washington, D.C. and serves as a commissioner for the Phoenix Mayor’s Commission on Disability Issues.
She also formed the Arizona Lupus Warriors Support Group and has coordinated three of the state’s Walk to End Lupus Now events.
Recently, Toni “re-enlisted” in government service. She applied to be a Department of Defense investigator for lupus research grants. It’s a commitment that requires her to review lupus research proposals and evaluate their potential for helping lupus patients.
As Toni explains, “Some research proposals may only affect a small population of the lupus community, but every step counts.”
Each step forward, she believes, is a move in the right direction on the way improving our understanding of lupus, developing more effective therapies and interventions – and eventually, finding a cure.
In the battle against lupus, this U.S. Army retired Major is still not prepared to stand down.