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Subject Matter Expert
Tonya Oxendine joined the U.S. Army a year after finishing high school — mostly to run away from a very difficult childhood and abusive family. Unfortunately, she left one abusive situation only to find another, as the first half of her nearly 30-year Army career was marred by harassment. Instead of seeking help, she remained silent and kept the pain and emotions bottled up inside. Tonya felt honored to be given the responsibility to serve her country and she didn’t want to jeopardize that. But eventually, during Tonya’s last deployment in Afghanistan, all of the pent-up emotions started to take a toll on her mentally.
“It hit all at once in 2012 during the deployment in Afghanistan,” Tonya said. “The memories of the death and suffering I saw — all this stuff came crashing down. I couldn’t take it anymore.”
It would be two more years before Tonya finally sought help for her post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the severe depression and anxiety she was experiencing. The Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) Talk program gave her the connection she needed to someone who not only listened but, as she came to realize, was always there for her. She also received mental health treatment at Emory Healthcare — part of the WWP Warrior Care Network® — which helps veterans like Tonya who are living with PTSD.
“Before I found Wounded Warrior Project, I was really, really bad off,” Tonya said. “I felt like I was in quicksand — like something was just pulling me under. But my Talk counselor Seneca gave me a glimmer of hope to just kind of keep holding on to that rope, like a lifeline he was throwing to me. Eventually, they got me out of that quicksand to where I could go on with my life.”
Today, Tonya’s passion is helping other veterans out of the quicksand through fitness and nutrition and by sharing her powerful story. Her goal is to help other warriors realize they, too, can overcome the debilitating symptoms of PTSD.
“I feel better. I really do,” Tonya said. “I still have bad days and sometimes weeks, but then I reach back to the things I learned in Wounded Warrior Project programs and I feel much better.”