Feb. 6, 2021

04 - Annette Wittenberger

04 - Annette Wittenberger

Just a heads up for everyone, this episode deals with PTSD and some other heavy topics. If that's hard for you, you might want to skip this one. 

Annette and I talked about her 17 years in the army, and how the army has changed over time. We also dove into what the military is like for parents and spouses (her husband is also in the army). After that we discussed the unique challenges a woman can face in the military as well as how hard it can be transitioning out of active duty. You can listen to Annette's podcast on her website A Wild Ride Called Life.

She has three great organizations, all three of them help out veterans who are struggling with PTSD. The first is the Steven A Cohen Foundation, they have clinics all over the country that can help you out. The second is Hicks Strong, they help set up veterans that need therapy. And third is Warriors Next Adventure, who help vets overcome PTSD through outdoor adventures like playing with wolves and hiking mountains.


LWI Interview with Annette Wittenberger

Chris: [00:00:00] Hi everyone. It's Chris here with your Friday episode of the Long War Interviews. Today, we're going to cover some heavier topics. Things like PTSD, depression, and feelings of isolation. These are things that a lot of veterans and even a lot of active duty members deal with. So I think it's important to talk about them.

However, if that kind of thing is upsetting for you. You might want to skip this one. Now, for those of you who are still listening, I'm sure you're familiar with the concept of PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder. It's hard to find books or stories about people who fought in Iraq or Afghanistan and not have PTSD come up in some form.

It's a natural outcome from being exposed to violence. It's perfectly normal and absolutely doesn't mean that you're weak or a bad warrior or anything like that. And for a long time, I was frustrated by the drum beat of media coverage on PTSD. I thought it was demeaning and took away from chances for troops to talk about what they were doing overseas.

But I've changed my mind on that. I'll I'll back up a little bit to explain. So. Over the last 100 years, every major war has seen the development of some new medical technology. In World War I, they he helped pioneer blood transfusions for injured troops. World War II saw the rise of antibiotics. In Vietnam people learned how to freeze blood for longer term storage and they developed modern treatments for burns. All of these advances came with a tremendous costs of course. But the men and women who bled and died while these treatments were being developed, have helped all of us live longer.

So now circling back to today, I think understanding PTSD and effective mental health treatments will be this generation of warriors contribution to medicine.

I think everyone now understands that if you've been blown up a few times, there might be some lingering trauma. No, that that certainly wasn't the case 20 years ago. And obviously we still have a long ways to go, but new research and treatment styles are showing a lot of promise. Now, before I get to today's interview with Annette, I want to talk about the organizations she supports.

All three of them work with vets who are struggling with PTSD. The first is the Stephen A. Cohen foundation. They work with veterans and active duty troops who are struggling. So if you don't feel comfortable getting help on a base or at the VA, the foundation has clinics all across the country. Second is Hicks Strong named after McCoy Hicks sailor who sadly took his own life after his struggles with PTSD. Hicks Strong helps provide therapy sessions for those in need. And then the third organization is Warrior's Next Adventure. They help veterans overcome PTSD through outdoor adventures and recreational activities including working with wolves, hiking, and doing Brazilian jujitsu.

So if you're interested or, you know, someone who could use some help, I put the links to all three of these groups in the show notes. And lastly, if you need help right now, you can call the suicide prevention lifeline at +1 800-273-8255. Or if you're younger like me, you can text them by texting talk.

That's T A L K to 741741. Okay. Let's start the show. 

Annette: [00:03:53] So my name is Annette Wittenberger. I am an army vet. I also am a mom to a high school senior and a college junior and a military spouse of over 22 years.

I retired. Let's go back. I joined the, I joined the army as a Chemical Corps, Chemical Officer in July of 99. I served until November 1st, 2016 in between those,  I did deploy twice, once to Iraq and once to Afghanistan.

Chris: [00:04:29] Okay. Nice. Okay. So coming in, you know pre War on Terror and then, you know, the whole being in the army while during the entire Iraq War and seeing, you know, a significant chunk of the War in Afghanistan, was it very apparent, like, did the army change in very noticeable ways during your time in, or was it just kind of, the army is the army and it was similar the whole way through.

Annette: [00:04:56] Well, no, there was definitely some changes. I mean, the training changed the level of security. I mean, there's, there's so many, so many different things, you know, you couldn't just PCS, you had, there was just certain restrictions and several travel guidelines. And there was just all these things, like almost like how there is now with COVID.

But. Just a mentality of, of the army, I guess, as a, as a whole on what they wanted us to focus on and the mission and all that, that definitely did change over time. So it, you know, depending on the unit you were with what your mission, what the mission would be when you would deploy to certain areas,

Chris: [00:05:42] And so you, you were working as a chemical engineer, is that right?

 Annette: [00:05:47] CBRN, a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear. I just forgot what the E stood for, but it originally started with CBRN.

Chris: [00:05:57] Could you explain for the listeners a little bit about, you know, what that works and, and what your kind of day to day job looked like?

Annette: [00:06:03] Yeah. So I did my training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and that was compiled of basically preparing us for chemical warfare.

So we did train with live nerve agents. We did learn how to properly don our masks can be equipment that you would wear and in turn, we would be that subject matter expert when we went out to the units and we would make sure that everyone else was trained in that area, just like there is with every MOS, there's certain SMEs for each one.

Like, you know, I wouldn't know how to shoot 50 Cal, if it wasn't for, you know, our soldiers that were specialized at. So for us you didn't really hear about that sort of thing thing happening all the time. So it wasn't a. It wasn't a, it wasn't something that was, that was common. So we would just have to be prepared to train for that.

So the things you would see, well, not, I want to say like in the movies, but in certain instances it would be like that if you were attacked by a gas or nerves or mustard agent, stuff like that. So that's what we would do. We would train for that.

Chris: [00:07:17] Speaking of the movies, kind of a scene that sticks out in my mind in the movie Jarhead in the first Gulf war, the Scud missiles would come in everyone would yell "mask mask mask", and they're putting on their gas masks because there's concerns about chemical weapons.

Right? So that's, that's what you were doing, helping to train people and keep that kind of readiness up to date.

Annette: [00:07:36] That's exactly it. Yep.

Chris: [00:07:39] You know, and then being in for the invasion of Iraq in 2003. I'm sure that was a very pressing concern again, because Saddam had had a history of using chemical, biological weapons like that.

Did you, were you involved in any kind of preparations back in 2003?

Annette: [00:07:57] So I was not, I was actually PCSC. I was moving from Germany to the States during that time. I did not deploy during that rotation. I didn't deploy until 2005, 2006.

Chris: [00:08:10] Okay. And to Iraq then?

Annette: [00:08:12] Yes. to Iraq then.

Chris: [00:08:14] Okay. And were you could you talk a little bit about your, your time in Iraq?

What, you know, were you still just maintaining readiness? I know they were still looking for weapons of mass destruction then. Were you involved in that search or anything like that?

Annette: [00:08:28] I was not. I was actually a company commander, so I had soldiers that were underneath me and we were, our mission was logistic logistical support.

So we would go on convoys and make sure that, you know, we were getting that all taken care of route security, stuff like that. So although it wasn't as dangerous as some of the other troops were involved in, we still had to, you know, maintain heightened awareness going back and forth with our, with our convoys.

Chris: [00:09:05] Absolutely. That was the heyday of artillery rounds being used as IEDs. It was a real dangerous time to be driving around IEDs.

Annette: [00:09:14] Right.

Chris: [00:09:16] I think a lot of people, you know, outside of the military, they maybe they saw the Hurt Locker or something and they understand the concept of IEDs, but it really is you're driving around on a convoy and there's trash all over the streets, you know, you can't see anything it's really, you know, it's so scary every time that you go outside the wire.

So, you know, did you, did you feel like you had the proper training and for you and your troops to do that maybe not coming from like a, a Motor T background. Did you feel prepared to do that?

Annette: [00:09:49] I feel like we were, I mean, we did do extensive training before we left and we continued to maintain that even, even down range.

So we still range, we still went through all the proper procedures before we would roll out. So. You know, we didn't, we never missed a beat with that, you know, but you can only, you could train as best as you can, but unfortunately, things, you know, things happen, but I feel like we were, we were prepared.

Chris: [00:10:19] Nice. Yeah. That's awesome. So you spent some time in Iraq then kinda came back to the States or, you know, what happened next in your career?

Annette: [00:10:30] I did. I came back and I ended up with a light infantry division unit and we deployed to Afghanistan.

Chris: [00:10:39] Okay. Where abouts in Afghanistan?

Annette: [00:10:42] We're on Jalalabad so we were on an airfield and, but we still had soldiers that were deployed to like nine different locations on there that were dispersed in different areas.

Chris: [00:10:58] Yeah, it was this I feel like Afghanistan was kind of the forgotten war for a long time until maybe 2009, 10, 11, somewhere in there. Was that, were you in that forgotten period? Were you part of like a tbuildup during the Obama administration?

Kind of where we were in the war? Did that fall?

Annette: [00:11:18] Well, this is OEF '08 '09. So gosh, I can't even, I can't remember. I just, I just remember it being it was very, it was very sensitive, the things that we did and we lost a lot of soldiers during that time, so that was probably. It was just one of the, one of the hardest deployments for myself.

And I'm sure for everybody else. So we were deployed with a lot of things happening at once. A lot of trying to keep your eyes on everything. And I mean, I couldn't imagine being a brigade commander at that time because it was a lot that he, you know, that he was in charge of and had to do so.

Chris: [00:12:07] Could you, could you explain for the listeners kind of like, you know, what a brigade is just to,

Annette: [00:12:12] Yes. So it brigade is a higher echelon, so we, you know, you're in charge of several different smaller units underneath. And so it could be, you know, over one to 2000 soldiers. And so being at that top level, you are. You're essentially responsible for everybody else underneath you

Chris: [00:12:35] And that's and then when they're distributed across, you know, thousands of kilometers of area and, you know, multiple different independently operating patrol bases, it's certainly is a lot to handle.

Annette: [00:12:47] It is, but he was very good at going on FOB recons.

He would get out on the, on the bird and he would go out and visit all the soldiers. So. Very very good brigade commander. Yeah. ,

Chris: [00:13:00] Seeing good kind of field leadership like that. It really does make a difference. So those are the kinds of leaders that, you know, people would follow anywhere.

Annette: [00:13:07] Absolutely. Yes.

Chris: [00:13:10] So did you so then you still had seven more years in the army. So did your tour in Iraq tour in Afghanistan, kind of coming home, you also have a spouse in the military and children, you know, how did, how did your two deployments impact your family? You know, how does that, how does that kind of work out?

Annette: [00:13:34] Yes, so I, we I'm trying to, I'm trying to think there was, so my brother-in-law was also stationed at Fort Hood when we deployed, we were all stationed there and so they had their uncle and he deployed. Then I deployed and then my husband deployed after. So we were all six months apart. And my my kids were three and five.

So at that time, we were really fortunate to have my mom. She moved from California to Texas because she knew that I was gonna have to deploy. My husband would go shortly after. And so she, she did, she uprooted, bought a house and she was there to help with the kids as well as my father-in-law. So we, we were, we were really lucky in that aspect because that doesn't happen.

That rarely happens. And but it was still, you know, it was still difficult because my mom didn't. She still, never really understood the military. So, you know, when, when the kids were having a difficult time, you know, they would call me. I was really, we were lucky in Iraq at that time to have a cell phone.

So some of us were able to get a phone over there. And we also had the ability to use the VTC  video teller conferencing. So, so it's like I'm sure you guys can figure it out, but it's like Zoom. We were able to Zoom, Zoom with her, but not we had a sign up. So we're like on the sign up list on days and times, and it would be available and you know, sometimes it always didn't happen.

So. You know, when the kids were having a difficult time, my mom thought she could just call or, you know, how come you can't tell your boss that you can't go? And it's like, it doesn't work like that. It got, it got stressful because I would worry. But I knew that I had to keep my head in the game and that went along with my other, with my soldiers as well.

You know, we had to. It's like, we just had to click, we had to change our mindset into thinking, okay, this is where here we can't, we can't really worry about being home. And so I, as a leader had to, you know, do the same thing. We had to make sure that things were taken care of at home. That way we could focus on being there.

So it was, it was challenging them being there first, you know, my first deployment in this position and them being so young. So yeah, it was, that wasn't easy,

Chris: [00:15:59] Yuu know, good. God bless your mom for doing that. That's, that's really quite generous of her. I, I assume your spouse probably wasn't deployed to a similar area as well, so that's, you know, you kind of have family all over the place

Annette: [00:16:17] During this time we actually were. Excuse me stationed. We were deployed within a it's about a 20 minute drive. So we were, we were somewhat close, but it's not like we could hang out everyday, you know? So it was, it was over there. I was over here, we had different missions, different responsibilities. So but then, you know, by the time he got there I was on my way back, so yeah.

Chris: [00:16:43] That's that's hard. I mean, I you know, it was just a single guy when I was in, but, you know, I had friends who, you know, trying to go to the week for a week long field up, but you know, their, you know, their spouse has to work. And so we got to pay for daycare or try and find, you know, a family member or someone else who can trade off watching the kids.

Do, do you feel like the military has good support systems for parents or does that kind of hit or miss based on which unit you're in? What, what base you're at.

Annette: [00:17:18] That's that's really what it was. It was it. I felt like it was just hit or miss because that's why they were so adamant about having a family care plan.

And you had to have a backup plan for field time or deployment time. And I had soldiers that got out because they didn't have a family care plan. They had no one to watch their kids so they could no longer serve and it's heartbreaking, but we need to have soldiers that are ready. And so that put pressure on me too, because I had to, I had to abide by the same rules.

And so I, you know, I was so. I was so hardheaded because I thought I could do it all. So I rarely asked for help. I try to do it my own. I would take them to daycare, go to PT. They would be an after-school care. And then after work I'd either go get them and bring them back to work with me or go drop them off somewhere else.

So it was just, it was madness. It, it really was. And so depending on your leadership, You know, you either get to leave at five or you don't and you have to figure it out.

Chris: [00:18:28] Yeah. That's, that's one of those, you know, it's a real virtue in the military to, to be very strong-willed and be able to really work hard and grind, you know, from five in the morning, til eight at night, or, you know, whatever.

It's certainly hard on children. Do you, do you ever talk to them about what it was like when they were younger now, or now that they're older and close? Well, once an adult ones close to being an adult,

Annette: [00:19:00] They you know, when they were younger, they got sad, but then it was a new adventure and then they got older, they were tired.

They were just really tired. They couldn't wait to just finally leave the house and be settled to where they wouldn't have to move all the time. So it was, it was sad. You know, and it it's made them resilient though. We, you know, when we talk about it, cause now it's, you know, for the past four years, it's just Dad that's in the army.

Cause I'm not, you know, I'm not in anymore, but they understand why we did what we did. It still didn't make it easier, but I think it's made them better for it. So it just, it's just hard. I think it's just about how we, how we present the next move, you know, it's about the attitude. How are we going to do this?

Cause I, I remember one location I did not want to go to, I cried for three days, but I said, you know what, we're going to go, cause we're going to support your dad. He was taking command. And I said, and it's going to be fine. And you know, we figured it out, but. I had to change my mindset and into saying, okay, we're going to someplace.

I'd never wanted to go to, but it's going to be okay. And so it just had to, you know, cause I can't eat it. Some places you just these places from so many people and some people hate it. Some people love it, but it is. It's just about how do we present this next adventure? Are we going to go in it just miserable or we're going to go in it and say, okay, let's just, let's just do what we got to do.

Chris: [00:20:39] Yeah. It's it's a great you know, I would say a common military attitude amongst people who, who are good at being in the military.

 You know, as a commander, I'm sure you had your share of soldiers who can just whine and complain and they don't want to do things and it's hard to keep them motivated. But if you, you know, if you're self motivated, or you can be like, you know what, I it's going to suck, but I can get through this.

It's a. It's a hard skill to teach. I think.

Annette: [00:21:08] It is. And then you're just going to always run into somebody. Who's just, you're always going to have somebody that's simply complained about something. That's just how it.

Chris: [00:21:15] We, we we actually had a saying in the Marine said if Marines are complaining, they're happy.

It's when they stop complaining that things were really bad. You need to be like, Oh wow. I need to ease up a little bit.

Annette: [00:21:29] Yeah.

Chris: [00:21:29] Did you like being a leader, you know, do you, do you miss that part of your job or how did you feel about being in charge of other soldiers?

Annette: [00:21:39] I, I actually really loved it because as chemical officers, you don't always get the opportunity, to be in command.

And so when I was given the opportunity, I was just like, Oh my gosh, this is the best thing ever. And I, I loved my soldiers. There were days where it was difficult, but for the most part, I mean, I still have contact with some of them. And this is back in 2005. So I loved it. I really did. And that's what I miss the most.

Chris: [00:22:06] Yeah, I hear that. Absolutely. I think the, you know, it's kind of cliche, like idea of band of brothers or, you know, whatnot, you know, the, your, your military family really is really quite close, you know, with the people that you're in,

Annette: [00:22:23] They are, they are your family. They were like my kids, I was never allowed to call them kids, but they were, they were like my kids.

Chris: [00:22:29] Yeah. Yeah. Getting into trouble, picking their nose, doing stuff like that.

Annette: [00:22:35] Stupid shit.

Chris: [00:22:40] So if you don't want to talk about this, no worries , what is it like being a woman in the army? The military is predominantly men, you know, is that, I'm sure it comes with its own set of struggles and challenges.

Do you, do you feel comfortable with talking about that at all?

Annette: [00:22:56] Yeah, no, that's fine. Well, just like with what we were talking about before, about families and leadership, it it's almost like that too. It all depends on the unit you're in you know, I, I did find one, one unit who I felt that I wasn't part of the gang, cause they all like went to the same college or they all liked the same sport and it was like, so I didn't feel like I fit in, but then I just, you know, I find my people.

And I think that's what made it tolerable is I found my people. I knew who I wanted to be like, I knew who I could look up to. I knew who I can get mentorship from, even if it was my own peer, you know? I'm still friends with one of them today. And so I just, I just learned that, okay, this is how it is.

Got it. Now I just need to figure something else out and maybe I need to be tougher or maybe I need to just work harder, whatever the case is. Probably not always a good thing, but it just made me stronger. It made me want to be better. Because I was the shy type. I was shy. Never wanted to make my boss mad.

I'm just like, always sweating around them, like, Oh my God, don't I had one boss who wouldn't yell, but he would talk normal and you just knew he was mad. I hated it. So I just tried to learn how to not make him mad or just be respectful. And so, I mean, I still say yes, sir. And, and yes, ma'am. To this day, because it's just ingrained in me.

So I think it's like that in the corporate world, you know, it's just all about how are you going to, how are you going to deal with that? Are you going to let it get to you and paralyze you because you're a female or are you just going to work harder and be better? And so I had to choose.

Chris: [00:24:58] That's awesome. Do you Do you think the army got better or more inclusive or anything like that over your time in? I know things, things are different now, you know, women can be in combat units and things like that. But I was wondering if like culturally, you know, do you, do you think it changed at all?

Annette: [00:25:18] Hmm, I think they're, they keep trying, they keep trying to make changes because there are certain things have gotten worse.

And the, you know, the suicide rates, the sexual trauma, there's so many things that have not gotten better. So I think they're trying, I just think they have they're overwhelmed because there's so much going on. And they tried by letting females in, which is cool. I mean, I couldn't do half the stuff that those women do.

Like, Oh my God, go for it. That's cool. And I know that, you know, there are some male males out there that are like, this is bull crap. They shouldn't do it. So to each it's own. But overall, I'm going to say, I think they're trying, they really are. It's just. It's a lot. It's a lot of shit. It's a lot. And I couldn't even imagine being that senior guy at the white house right now.

Chris: [00:26:24] Right. You know, you think. Unlike you know, a lot of organizations or corporations, you know, cause the military is national. You have it have people from every state, every corner of every state, you know, you have immigrants and everyone's bringing in their own you know personal baggage and their own personal thoughts and feelings.

And there's a such a rapid turnover. That's what 50 ish percent of people get out every four years. Like it's. So you're constantly having to just rebuild and rechange these cultures that, you know, essentially get set. If you have, you know Command Sergeant Majors or something who've been in for 25 years, you know, it's, it's going to be hard for them to change their thinking and attitudes on a dime.

So yeah, it's not an enviable issue to have to take on.

Annette: [00:27:13] No, I wouldn't. And you're right. Yeah. You do. You have those old Sergeant Majors who are used to doing it a certain way and they think it's crap to change it. So it's hard.

Chris: [00:27:25] Yeah, but you know, they'll retire soon. So that's how, that's how we make progress one retirement at a time, I suppose.

Annette: [00:27:36] Yeah. Basically.

Chris: [00:27:40] So, so you miss, you know, leading troops is there, what else do you miss from your time in?

Annette: [00:27:46] I think the comradery, because when you, when you get out and I think I'm not sure if you felt like this, you feel kind of isolated. You don't have your people with you. And so you feel like your identity is just been stripped.

You know, you don't wear the uniform anymore. You don't have to go to formation. You don't have. I had to, I used to have to carry two phones. You don't have the other phone. You don't have that, that connection that you're so used to, even with the crusty old civilians, I miss them too. And so it's, it's hard, you know, and, and I miss that.

It's, it's hard to connect again, cause you almost just like want to be by yourself if you can't have your people. So you isolate yourself even more. So it's hard. I miss that as much as I complain about getting up every morning or having to be at work by a certain time, man. I, yeah. I miss it.

Chris: [00:28:43] Absolutely. I, I felt it's funny cause I was, I was very excited to get out, you know, it's it's, it, it, military is hard. And I was so excited when I got out for about a month. And then as you know, I'd still go get like a military reg haircuts and, you know, I'm just, I, can't not wake up at four in the morning and you know, it was just like, ah, like constantly calling my friends who are still in and they're like, Hey, I'm working, man.

Like I got, you know, I can't talk on the phone right now. Yeah, it is. Yeah. It's, it's, it's hard to go from. Yup. A hundred percent in and a hundred percent out the next day. There's really not like an, a gradual easing out or anything, which I think makes it a lot harder.

Annette: [00:29:27] It does. It does. And I, and I, I really think that with the transition program, the eight cap, whatever they call it, now they focus so much on resume writing, building, working what you should, where we should look for a job, but they forget about.

The mental aspect on preparing yourself mentally, because it's going to be hard. So if I were to change anything, I think it would definitely be that because it is it's 100%, one day and then the next is completely gone. So it's, it's very difficult to, unless you hated it that much. Some people do. I dunno, I guess it just depends on everybody, but yeah.

Chris: [00:30:12] Yeah. Do you, do you cause you're right. There are people who absolutely hate every second of it. And those, those are the people who go out and they smoke pot so that they'll pop on drug tests and get kicked out, which is an insane thing to do. I can't believe, you know, that's so common. But do you, do you recommend, you know, you you're in for 17 years, I'm sure people ask you or, you know, maybe your kids' friends are maybe curious about joining the military.

Do you ever talk to people about joining or do you recommend it to other people?

Annette: [00:30:45] I do. I even have my mom, my mom, my daughter had some friends who wanted to talk to us about it and what we thought. And, you know, I, I, I actually kind of do recommend it. We even told my son because he does not want to know what he wants to do after high school.

It's definitely not college. So we gave him every option of every branch, you know, Air Force. My, my father-in-law's a Marine. We told him that and yeah. You know, he, for someone like that, who just has no direction and doesn't know what to do, I don't, I, four years, just at least do four years, you know? Cause it could change you, you know, it could change you into being maybe more independent or give you some structure in your life.

Whatever the case is, I don't think it's a bad idea. I mean, if I could do it and I was completely like, I don't even know what I was doing. I wasn't going to say this. I was going to do a three or four years and get out. And so I don't know how I lasted this long, but so long story short. Yes, I would recommend it.

I think it's, I think it's good.

Chris: [00:31:52] Yeah, I agree. I think it's as similar to your son, just kind of I was 20, just very lost, you know, aimless. And it certainly gave me a lot of direction and just self-confidence, you know, I can, I can do things if I set my mind to it, and now I know how to do that, which is a very nice feeling.

What if you mind me asking you're what, what initially prompted you to join?

Annette: [00:32:18] So I actually wanted to enlist I had a friend in high school, so I went to an all girl Catholic high school. So to join the army, is this not, it was like a shock. So I had a friend who enlisted and I thought it was so awesome.

I was like, Oh my God, I can't believe she just enlisted. And I, I was always fascinated with the military. But at that time I only knew about enlisting. I didn't know about the officer route. So I went as far as having the recruiter at my house and I chickened out and I said, okay, no, maybe I'm not that ready.

I went to community college and then I went to university. So when I went to, when I applied to Arizona State University, I. One of them. I wanted to make sure the school had an ROTC program, which they did. So when I went there, I was like, let's try it. And by the end of the term, they were like, okay, so you either out or you're in, sign the paperwork.

And at that time it was my senior year. My, I had met my husband and I was like, okay, Well, let me just try it. He's already in, I'll just, we'll just go wherever and, and that's what I did. And then I think over time, because I was still clueless on what I wanted to do. I didn't know if I was going to make it a career or not, each year passed by and I just kept doing it and doing it.

And until it was time to get out, that was it.

Chris: [00:33:47] Yeah, fun. Funny how life works like that sometimes.

Annette: [00:33:50] No idea that I was like the last person that anybody would have expected to do that. So I think a part of me was like, I'll show you. Cause my dad, he did not think that women should be in the military back in 98.

So part of me was like, well, yeah, no, that's cool. I like that. Oh my gosh. Yeah.

Chris: [00:34:18] So yeah, I was looking at your website. And I see you do a lot of work now talking about  vets, women vets in particular would you like to talk a little bit about the work you've been doing lately since you got out?

Annette: [00:34:31] Yeah. So I as we spoke about before transitioning out of the military, that was really hard for me.

I went through a lot in my life from childhood trauma all the way through military and then my adult life, but I never, it was never diagnosed. Cause I never talked about it. Mental health. You don't talk about that in the military. It was like, I didn't want anyone to know about it and. I didn't even want to get help for it cause I didn't want anybody to know.

So when I transitioned, it was really difficult. I went through depression , big time, anxiety diagnosed with that and PTSD. So that was a hard one for me to swallow and because of how dark the depression was, I had no, I didn't know what I was going to do with my life. And I decided I had to start writing about it.

So that's how I started my blog. I decided that I had to do something and I kinda might've went extreme and like did a whole website and shared it with everybody. But for me, and speaking with other people, other veterans that also were in similar situations with, you know, being lost when they got out that just prompted me to just.

Just go in and start sharing my story so I could try to help other people. And so that's what I did. I do that. I speak on it and I decided that I no longer wanted to be ashamed of it because I think it's just so important now to have that conversation. And so that's what I do.

Chris: [00:36:06] That's, that's really brave of you. That's really great to hear.

Annette: [00:36:09] Thanks. It was hard. It was really hard.

Chris: [00:36:13] Absolutely. And, and, you know, you're a hundred percent, right. That the military does an awful job about treating people with any, you know, any kind of, you know, PTSD is like been one of the biggest stories coming out of the military for the last 20 years.

And it it's still. No, it's still all these old crusty Sergeant majors, you know, think you're just being weak or, you know, think that you're just being a wimp, you know, it's not, you know, it's it's a biochemical issue that, you know, is, is treatable and it's fine. Like, but it's really, it really done a very disappointing job of, you know, helping out soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines that are just, just having a hard time.

Annette: [00:36:57] Yeah. It's it's sad.

Chris: [00:36:59] Yeah, yeah, yeah. But yeah, so thank you. Thank you for, you know, talking about that because it's, I think there are a lot of people who are just waiting to hear that you're okay. Like it's, it's going to be all right. It sucks, but like you can get through this. So I'm really glad that you're out there talking to people.

Annette: [00:37:16] Thanks.

Chris: [00:37:20] So on this show, we have the guests highlight organizations that work with veterans. Do you, do you have one that you wanna talk about? Do you want to talk about your podcast or anything like that?

Annette: [00:37:31] Well, I mean, I do wanna, I do want to talk about why I'd like to bring up one organization because they offer services for, for veterans and active duty who aren't comfortable getting it on base.

Chris: [00:37:47] Oh, great.

Annette: [00:37:49] That's what I use it. So the Stephen A Cohen foundation. They are amazing. And I really feel that they need to be utilized more. And I, you know, but I don't think we just weren't taught about other resources when we were in, you know, it's either Military One Source or go see your primary care provider.

Chris: [00:38:10] Yeah. Talk to the chaplain.

Annette: [00:38:12] Yeah. But now there's so many out there. And so I use them, I did, I used them until COVID and then I just. You know, I, I didn't seek them anymore only because I thought I was okay. So I think they're amazing. And there's so many non-profits out there who are wanting, who are providing different types of resources, outdoor therapy , sports therapy, all these things.

And so I think it's, I think it's amazing. And I think I'd try to add them on my website, but I can give you those resources afterwards because there's, there's a lot there's Warriors Next Adventure there's Hicks Strong and all of them from personal stories, you know, of suicide or suicide attempts and they formed their own nonprofit to help others.

And I just think it's it's really a blessing in disguise because we never had that. As far as. The, I mean, I do have a podcast because I wanted to create a second space for people to find their voice, use it and share their story. Cause there's a lot of people out there who don't think they have a story to tell.

And once we have a conversation, I'm like, yes, you do. You absolutely have a story to tell. And I, you know, they just want to go somewhere where they're not going to be judged. And so that's where podcasts come in now and everybody has a podcast, but. My reasoning was not just for veterans, but for normal people that are out there.

And I say normal, but I mean like civilians who are not military affiliated, they have powerful stories. And it's really just to provide hope for people. In, in that's really what I that's, what I wanted to do was provide hope, no matter what you've been through, this is how they came out of it. And this is how we can help you get out of it.

And so that's. That's really what it's about.

Chris: [00:40:07] That's so amazing. That's really wonderful.

Annette: [00:40:10] Thanks.

Chris: [00:40:11] It's it's really a Testament, you know, you're a leader of soldiers in the army and you know, you're still a leader. You're still, you know, finding people, taking care of them, you know, making sure they can continue on.

And that's really you know, a Testament to your character.

Annette: [00:40:28] No, I appreciate that. I was just trying to. I th I guess it just started with my own self healing journey. Like I need to do something for people so that they don't feel like this, or they don't feel alone in this. It was kinda talking to myself, you know how you give yourself advice, but you don't listen.

Well, this one, it was like, I need to do something. And so let's start a podcast. I mean, I just want, you know, I want people to know that there's so many of us out there that they can turn to, you know, even if we feel like we don't have anybody. There's people like you and like me who were there, you know, we, we get it, we understand, and we just want to be there to help you. So that's my main mission.

 Chris: [00:41:16] Okay. That's it for today's show. I want to thank Annette for talking with me and for continuing to be a leader. She's doing important work, and I'm really grateful that she was able to make the time to talk with me. Have a great weekend, everyone. And I'll see you next week