COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Jan. 16, 2017) – Nichole “Nikki” Gettman served honorably in the Army, doing a tour in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom in 2003. However, when she left the military in 2005, she felt disenfranchised and aimless.
“I had a bitter taste in my mouth regarding the military, and I stopped identifying with it,” Nikki said. “I was angry and didn’t feel that good about my service.”
Nikki was battling post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. She felt paralyzed – incapable of taking her life into her own hands and living the life she wanted. And then she found out about Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP).
“I hadn’t heard of Wounded Warrior Project but had seen the logo at Tough Mudder events,” Nikki explained. “I got curious. I needed assistance with my disability claim, and they were very willing to help me. All of my initial interactions were great, but what really caught my attention was what they had going on with physical fitness training.”
In addition to working through her depression, Nikki was dealing with a major back injury, causing her to gain weight, which only fueled her unhappiness with her life. Nikki knew a change needed to happen – or she would lose her love of athletics and her desire to get moving again.
“I wasn’t happy and didn’t feel equipped to take on those challenges,” Nikki said. “The opportunities to participate in helpful programs gave me the motivation to do better. The endorphins, working out, and having a say in my life again changed my outlook. I rediscovered a lot of my original love for exercising; I feel like the support I had got me to a point where I didn’t need the support as much. I’ve lost 55 pounds since I began working out with Wounded Warrior Project.”
Connecting with WWP and getting involved with its Physical Health and Wellness program offerings also gave Nikki a perspective on her military career that she didn’t have before.
“Getting out there with Wounded Warrior Project helped me identify with being a service member again – and celebrate it,” Nikki said. “I look at the camaraderie as a necessary and important part of my life now. That sense of community has been one of the most important aspects to me, and I’ve made lifelong friends as a result of these activities.”
Nikki found those friendships with fellow female veterans at several WWP connection activities, which are designed to help warriors recreate the bonds they experienced during military service – in settings that accommodate physical injuries and social anxieties. They were the very same types of warriors she encountered during a recent community service event in Colorado.
As part of its ongoing community partnerships with other veterans service organizations, WWP staff and warriors worked with volunteers from The Mission Continues to renovate and beautify Mount Saint Vincent, a treatment center for children with behavioral and emotional challenges due to mental illness, trauma, abuse, or neglect. The volunteer workforce helped the Mount Saint Vincent staff manage their grounds and clean and organize their air-conditioning units so the staff could reinstall them later in the year.
The gathering served as an opportunity for wounded warriors to connect with their community while feeling empowered through helping others. It left Nikki feeling invigorated about giving back to a worthy cause.
“I saw a lot of parallels with what Wounded Warrior Project does for veterans and what Mount Saint Vincent does for kids,” Nikki said. “It’s such a powerful thing to change a life and alter its course. Giving back and helping was something I felt I needed to do. From my perspective, I was taking from the universe for my needs, so to be able to give back to other people made me feel like I was providing a supportive role, versus needing it.”
In a WWP survey of the injured warriors it serves, more than half of survey respondents (51.7 percent) talked with fellow Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, or Operation New Dawn veterans to address their mental health issues. Connecting with fellow service members in the community minimizes isolation and creates a support structure during the healing process.
“Female veterans’ experiences on deployments are singular in the sense that they face different wounds or challenges when it’s over,” Nikki said. “We can experience PTSD differently; we obviously deal with issues like military sexual trauma, and so on. The emotional rapport that female warriors have is unique, and there are specific triumphs and successes from serving, and it’s special to share that with other veterans who understand that dynamic.”
Contact: Mattison Brooks – Public Relations Specialist
About Wounded Warrior Project
Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) connects, serves, and empowers wounded warriors. Read more at https://newsroom.woundedwarriorproject.org.