Every time I get asked how I found The Mission Continues, I am not sure how to answer. I call it divine intervention while others say it was luck. One day, I was online searching, “resources for Veterans,” and I kept seeing the Mission Continues Fellowship Program pop-up. I took a look at the website and for some reason felt I was not qualified. Despite my hesitancy, I decided to apply. I can hardly explain the sheer joy I felt when I was awarded a fellowship. For the first time in a while, I felt validated and proud.
I had to come a long way in my battle against PTSD before I found The Mission Continues. I had been home from Afghanistan since late 2003 and spent the following three years self-mutilating, suicidal, homeless, jobless, and abusing drugs. I am happy to say that those dark days are behind me now, but it has taken more perseverance and commitment than I can even put into words. I still struggle and always will. It took me turning into someone I could hardly recognize to rediscover myself again.
Since coming to terms with my inner demons, I have not only been in therapy but also had physical conditions rectified. I have had two hip surgeries and am having my first of two foot surgeries this August. When I approached The Mission Continues, I wanted to do my fellowship at my local Veterans Affairs Medical Center. I volunteered twenty hours a week for six months in the physical therapy department. To work one-on-one with other veterans is a priority for me. Also, being in a department that I had been a patient in really helped me to see how much I still had to offer. Some days I would help geriatric patients with their routines and others were spent having long, intimate talks with vets about their war experiences. As soon as the patients found out I was a Veteran too, they all wanted to talk my ear off! Sometimes we laughed and sometimes we cried, but no matter what, we had a camaraderie that was unmatched. Through my fellowship, I found a purpose for my life in the outside world and realized that even off the battlefield, the mission really does continue.
Jennifer Crane served 4 years in the United States Army. She is currently serving a Mission Continues Fellowship at the Coatesville VA Medical Center in Coatesville, PA.