Cheryl's Story

"I was in the Army National Guard and the Army for 28 years and served in Iraq from 2006-2007.  I was a Master Sergeant and my MOS was Tactical Satellite Communications for most of my career and during my last five years I was in charge of logistics/transportation.”

Cheryl grew up in Hamden, CT and currently lives in Wallingford, CT.  "In 1983, after completing one year of business school, having no luck finding work, and wanting to get out of Connecticut, I decided to enter the Army."  From 1983 - 1989, Cheryl attended basic training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.  She also was stationed in Korea, Germany, and Italy.  During her time in the US Army, Cheryl's son, Brett was born in 1987 at Fort Bragg.  Upon her completion of active duty, Cheryl spent two years in Colorado with the Reserves.

From 1991-2011, Cheryl was a member of the National Guard and spent time in Turkey, Kuwait, and Iraq.  In 1998, her daughter, Alyssa was born.  From 2006-2007, Cheryl was deployed to Iraq.  

Cheryl felt that sometimes women were ignored or not heard as much because they were in the minority, even if they were in a position of power.  According to the Pew Research Social & Demographic Trends, Among living veterans from any era, only 15% of women served in combat, compared with 35% of men.

"I could be in a meeting and say something like, I think we should take this route and someone else would make a different suggestion and then ten minutes later a man would say the same thing I said.  Everyone would then say that the man's idea was a great one, even though I had originally suggested that same route." 

When Cheryl first joined the Army (1983), she was in the last unit that had a separation of men and women for Basic Training and she can see a difference in the attitudes of men toward women.  "There is still a belief that women are not equal to men.  It is getting a little better and I made it to Master Sergeant which is an accomplishment because there aren't that many women that make it to that position."

Even though Cheryl was in a role of power as Master Sergeant and had four trucking units under her, each with 120 people in them, she still encountered obstacles.  "My job was to give these units orders as to what missions they had to go on.  There was one unit that was all men and they gave me a lot of push back because I was a woman.  They went to my boss, a man who was a Major because they were not used to dealing with a woman and would second guess my decisions.  My boss told them they had to work with me and things got better after that."

In 2009, Cheryl's National Guard unit lost a soldier to suicide.  "I could understand why the soldier took his life.  The way I was feeling, the shame I felt for the things I had to do in war, and survivors guilt all made me realize I needed help to deal with PTSD.  So I went to the VA and was assigned a doctor in the PTSD clinic and see a therapist on a regular basis.  To me Recovery means being strong enough to admit that you have a problem and being able to seek help."

"The Errera Community Care Center has made me realize that my life could be a lot worse.  There are still a lot of people out there that need to be in recovery and aren't.  One way to help a loved one is to have them recognize the pattern of their behavior and have them see that they are going in a circle, open their eyes so they can see that what they are doing is not good for them.  Identifying a change that needs to be made to break a pattern of behavior is the first step to getting help."

Cheryl said that one of the biggest motivators to her own recovery was her children.  "I wanted to be able to provide them with a good role model and if I didn't fix my issues, I would have not been in a good place, I would have brought my children down a bad path that would have led to me losing my house and we would have then become a part of the system."

"One of the goals during my recovery was to be able to get out of bed every day and to be strong enough to make it through the day.  Another goal was to be able to maintain a level of happiness and not be tormented by the effects of the war constantly."

"I didn't really know what it was that I had.  I had PTSD and I was just going along not realizing that this was my problem and I didn't know anything about my illness.  In the military you are taught to be strong; do what you have to do.  That way of thinking doesn't get you anywhere; you end up acting like you don’t have a problem and matters just get worse."

Cheryl began working at the Errera Community Care Center as a Work Study Student from Southern Connecticut State University in March of 2012 with the Homeless Team doing intake and outreach. "Through this Work Study experience, I learned of the Peer Specialist Position through HPACT (Homeless Patient Aligned Care Team).  In this position, I provide all Social Service Support to Veterans that are in the program, which includes helping them complete application forms for reduced fare bus applications, Veteran benefits, Social Security, cell phone applications and other Department of Social Services applications."

Cheryl feels that the Errera Community Care Center has had a very positive impact on the Veterans she works with and she hears a lot of positive feedback from the Veterans themselves.  "I think they are very comfortable with talking to another Veteran about whatever their issues are and they trust us.  There is a certain bond that all Veterans have among each other.”

"I think I have a positive effect on the Veterans I work with because I share with them what I have been through.  By sharing my story with them it gives them something to look forward to and gives them hope. I ask them to not give up, recovery doesn't happen right away but it does happen, just be patient."