By Wanda “Sistah Soldier” Petty,
President & CEO, SHE VET, iNC.
I recently read that the number of women veterans committing suicide has risen. I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if “we” as a nation, a community, a family member or even a friend could have done more than think her situation would magically work out? You know, even when she didn’t express she needed help! The signs were visible before it all happened, but someone didn’t think “she would become a statistic.”
I remember a time I occupied several roles, as an active duty single mother, a student, and a part-time employee at the Atlanta Braves Stadium as a security guard, so I could save money for a down payment on a home.
At times it felt overwhelming and as if my goals were so far away to achieve. It felt like no-one could ever understand the challenges I was experiencing. To add more stress, I had an active teenage son who desperately needed a mentor (I’ll let your imagination figure out the rest). Some days, I thought “Was any of it worth it? Would my hard work even make a difference? I mean, who does this?”
I didn’t realize I was focusing on the negative, instead of the possibilities (positive effect) of my efforts. Not only was I creating better living arrangements for my children (we lived in a townhome apartment complex), but I was making better career choices for my future.
I knew, without a doubt, the relationship I was developing with Christ was helping me to become a stronger individual.
One day, He sent an angel just in time, Sgt. V. Scott, a co-worker who became my cheerleader and encouraged me through it all. She understood the challenges I was experiencing as a single parent. We became battle buddies (so to speak). She was a sister, a mentor, and the help I needed. I was miles away from my family on the west coast, and many times felt deserted; “V” knew how to lift my spirits.
She always had jokes and could lift anyone’s mood when she came around. If one of us worked a late duty shift, the other would ensure our children were safe, clean, and fed. She and I became family and treated each other as such. After the second year of the tour, I was fortunate enough that my mother came to live with me in my new home and provided more significant support. That only became possible because “I didn’t quit.”
The more I considered my position, I knew I had to continue marching on because I was working on something that wasn’t just about me, but beneficial to my loved ones.
I learned to take time out for myself and relax. I channeled any negative energy towards working out two times a day, five days a week, and created mental clarity (boy, did I become fit). I began setting goals for myself and then planned how to reach them. I read self-help books to develop my inner being when I didn’t understand my emotional challenges. Lastly, I sought counseling.
If I were to say those times were not severe, I would be lying, but I made it through, and you can too! You can have the future you visualize, and internal peace along the way. You have to make the first step of acknowledgment of where you are on the map called life. It “IS POSSIBLE” to make it against all the odds.
Today, I not only keep in touch with old battle buddies and help veterans find employment, but I’m also blessed to have this outlet to connect with others (such as you) and encourage them to keep their heads up. None of this would be possible if I had quit.
I believe you have a bright future ahead of you, no matter what path your previous journey carried you through. I was only a teacher while you were a student.
Go beyond the old, the hurt, and the fear. Leave it behind you, because old things do not belong in your future. Learn to discover peace within you.
Express your needs, because others “DO” care (and they’re willing to help you at the level they can). No more, and no less. Just receive it. Lastly, always remember this one thing, “YOU MATTER!”