Laura Stephens

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Served in: Army, 2002-2007.

Deployed to: Iraq (2003, 2005).

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The trauma: “On my second deployment, I was the only medic who had combat experience, so I was the one taking care of the unit. Every single day, six days out of the week, I was going out on missions with EOD [explosive ordnance disposal], infantry, tankers, the military police, to make sure they were cared for. Engineers and EOD are the ones who go out and find the IEDs and destroy them. So, working with them, I got blown up on a daily basis.”

The aftermath: “There was one incident where I went with my ex-husband to a drawing that he was having at his gym. We were only supposed to be there for a few minutes, but I didn’t realize how many people there were going to be. It was elbow to elbow. This poor girl fell and bumped into me, and my instant reaction was, I swung at her. Thankfully, I caught myself right as I was going to hit her, and I just ended up tapping her on the shoulder. But it was enough that I got so embarrassed, and I didn’t want to get into trouble, so I just said, ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry,’ and ran out and sat in the car.”

Today: “Once I get settled into my house, I want to go to school to be an auto mechanic, so that way I can work on my own car, help my friends out and use my GI bill for something productive. … I actually am an avid knitter. That’s how I met most of my friends here. We have a knitting group called Sin City Hookers, because there’s knitters and crocheters. I found them on Meetup.com, and I have made some really good friends who I think that, even if we move, we’ll still remain in contact. They all are aware of my PTSD, and when we meet in public places, they let me pick my seat and vent about things that bother me. They’ve been really, really good to me.”

Suggested Next Read

Barrel Racer

Barrel Racer

By Heidi Kyser

In the few grains of time between unconsciousness and consciousness, I thought my dad was an angel, maybe God. His cowboy hat blocked out the sun as he leaned over me while I lay gasping for air. “Are you all right? Can you breathe?” He picked me up and gently palpated my 7-year-old body, looking for broken bones. Then he turned to Penny, my big red mare, who was shaking dust everywhere. He examined her legs, the side of her belly that she’d fallen on before throwing me to the ground.

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