After I graduated high school in 2002, I joined the Army Reserve as a Cargo Specialist (88H). Unfortunately, I was injured in basic training and my injuries were not diagnosed until advanced individual training, and I was unable to deploy to Afghanistan with my unit.
I was discharged in 2005 under conditions other than honorable (OTH), and now suffer from permanent disabilities affecting my feet, ankles, knees and back. My compensation claim has been pending with the VA for over four years. I now also suffer from a severe depressive disorder, a recurrent anxiety disorder and a panic disorder.
I’ve been through a lot of tough things as a result of being injured in the Army and receiving a “bad” discharge – financial and housing problems that continue to this day. I used to think I didn’t deserve to be called a veteran, and hid my service because of the shame I carried from getting hurt so early on and not deploying during such a crucial time.
Other blessings have appeared in the aftermath my injuries in the Army and coping with my disabilities. I didn’t have access to my G.I. Bill because of my discharge, but I was able to use VA Vocational Rehabilitation (Ch. 31) to complete my bachelor’s degree in philosophy and political science at the University of California, Davis. During that time, I met fellow veterans who not only supported me but also inspired me to keep striving for the things I want in life.
I now work for UC Davis and use my position as an analyst and adviser in Undergraduate Admissions to advocate for veterans and military in public higher education.
I struggle every day – psychologically and physically – with the fact that I am in my 30s and permanently disabled. I often think it was all for nothing. But serving my brothers and sisters in arms in the small ways that I can is one of the larger goals in my life that keeps me going. Student Veterans of America (SVA) provided me with the context of advocacy for veterans and military in higher education, and it is one simple, powerful phrase that exhibits the reason why – #SVALeads.” Veterans have led the way most of their lives, and they deserve access to all that UC can offer through dedicated outreach and recruitment.
Hometown: Houston, TX
Branch: Army Reserve
Years of Service: 3