Defending her people and her land during times of conflict left Margaret fearing change and feeling lost, but she has since embraced her surroundings and regained a sense of belonging.

"I never let war scare me from going on missions, so I refused to let it scare me from enjoying my life.

From the moment I swore in to the Army at 17 years old I wanted nothing more than to earn my right to be called a soldier. I never feared deployment. In fact, I volunteered every chance I could, hoping that I could have the honor of serving and finally earning my combat patch. Deployment was an honor. After my first couple days and scares, I became numb to the tasks and trials of serving as a combat medic to an engineer battalion. I was seeing and doing more than I could have ever possibly imagined. I saw things and did things that people would consider insane, scary, even ridiculous... but I was proud. Everything I did felt important. I felt important.

I knew my family missed me and I felt guilty when we were told we were going home. I knew I should have been excited,but I was not. I was terrified of coming home. I was scared of being away from the guys I considered my family, my support, my boys. I came home to a welcome party of tears and hugs and all I wanted to do was get back on the plane. I missed war. Who says that?

I spent the next year avoiding parties, friends, family events and anything else that meant being on the spot or in a crowd. I had panic attacks, nightmares and migraines and was physically and mentally falling apart. I knew this wasn’t like me and I knew I was not alone. I started getting involved in support groups and volunteering at the VA Hospital and then decided to apply to work there. I now oversee 16 clinics and work intimately with people who unfortunately have chosen other vices to break the fear and the pain from days past.

I hope that if anything, people can understand that PTSD is not just one war story that haunts someone, but instead a feeling of loss and disorientation that can arise from a multitude of experiences. No one should have to feel alone, especially not when it is built in our core to care for those to our right and our left." -Margaret