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Warriors of Camp Southern Ground

Andrea Rhea

Andrea is a Warrior PATHH alum. Her time in the U.S. Air Force included two tours in Iraq. This is her story.

I served in the United States Air Force for 10 Years. My career was in transportation, driving tractor-trailers and other heavy equipment. I did two tours in Iraq, one on a Forward Operating Base and one doing supply convoys. I also served at duty stations in Japan and Utah.

After military service, I felt like I was merely surviving, not truly living. This emptiness persisted for 14 long years until I discovered Warrior PATHH in 2024. Nothing seemed to work. I was trapped in the past, struggling to find a reason to keep going, unable to find joy or happiness in everyday life. Something had to change. I ate too much, spent too much time in bed, spent too much money, and snapped at my children over trivial things. My anxiety was so intense it caused physical pain, and I was almost to the point that I had to leave my job. On my worst days, I lashed out at others, couldn’t get out of bed, and set an awful example for my children. I wore a social mask, pretending to be what others expected, but inside, I was screaming.

The trauma I endured ranged from childhood abuse to sexual assault before and during my military service. Then, I piled on the horrors of combat along with rockets and gunfire. I joined the military to escape my past, but I never learned how to self-regulate or develop self-worth. My coping mechanism, starting in high school and through my early military years, was abusing alcohol and sex because I didn’t think I had value or was worth being loved.

Going to Warrior PATHH played a large part in saving my life! Another ARMY Veteran recommended the program to me. I didn’t know what to expect, but I knew where I was wasn’t working for me or anyone around me, and something had to change. PATHH gave me and my PATHH sisters a safe place to release all the trauma and past experiences holding me back. The program helped me see my worth and focus on life in the present. I can now find joy in small things and no longer spend my days after work lying in bed. The exercises and coping skills I learned were invaluable, and the guides are wonderful at what they do. Some modules were very hard to go through but necessary to help me move forward and move on. I realized I am loved and capable, and my past was never my fault.

Meditation has been essential in helping my mind slow down and clear out negative thoughts. I just finished my PATHH journal today, but I wish there were a part two. I was introduced to yoga and continue the practice to this day. It helps clear my mind, helps me focus, and has lessened my back pain. It’s an activity I do with my daughter when she wants to join me. Equine therapy helped me connect with myself and the animals. I had never tried archery before but have purchased my own set since coming home; it’s a helpful release tool. The difficult conversations module was also beneficial, and I have had many since coming home. It turns out they are not as difficult as I made them out to be!

I still use the weighted blanket, drink hot tea, and meditate regularly. My relationship with my children is better. My anxiety is all but gone, and I can handle life so much better now. I can also find joy in small things like birds singing and being outdoors. So many other positive changes have taken place. The PATHH Guides were a big part of making me feel safe because they always shared their experiences and stories first.

One of the most notable changes is how I view suicide and my thoughts about it. I can now look to and think about the future, something I couldn’t do before. Suicide is a word, not an action verb. I am forever grateful for this program for this mind shift. I still struggle with my racing thoughts, but I have the tools to slow them down and better gate-keep my mind. More often than not, I am struggling well.


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