Some days, what I hear is not thunder in the distance, but bombs falling on my medical camp in southern Iraq, “far forward” on the front line. Fireworks and hospital or police helicopters have the same effect. I was an Army Reserve trauma and critical care surgeon with soft, skilled hands. I am strong woman.
During two tours in Iraq, the team I led saved every casualty who showed any sign of life — and a couple who didn’t. Yet three years after returning from war, I suffer from severe post-traumatic stress disorder and I can no longer practice medicine.
Instead, I became a face and voice for thousands of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, attempting to re-enter civilian life. I travel the country telling my story and urging medical personnel, charities and civic organizations to take a special interest in the needs of returning veterans. Even as I help other veterans, I first had regain my strength and save myself. Today, I know that just because I have scars, it doesn’t mean I am a scarred person.
I am a strong woman and I still have soft hands.