Integration back into civilian life was a bit of a struggle for me. The biggest struggle was losing my soldier identity and the camaraderie that came with it. On top of that, I became a military spouse, and that in itself has its own set of obstacles. I never really had time to process what that loss looked like because I just went from one role into another and then straight into motherhood.
I was often lonely because I didn’t have anyone that understood what I went through. I struggled mentally and emotionally to find someone that would understand my loss, and when you don’t live close to military installations, it is near impossible to find those people.
It took me a long time to reach out for mental health resources partly because of my busy schedule, but partly due to the stigmatization of reaching out for help — it made you weak.
I wouldn’t cry. Alcohol was my way of coping. I was slowly spiraling mentally and emotionally out of control.
As it would happen, I found The Mission Continues in 2017 at one of the lowest points in my life. My depression and anxiety were in high gear and I was having suicidal ideations.
Peggy (right) arrives at the Charlie Class 2016 Orientation service project on July 23, 2016 in Minneapolis.
Peggy Schnack is an Air Force veteran, a 2016 Charlie Class Fellow serving with Habitat for Humanity, and will run the 2016 Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) with Team Mission Continues on October 30, 2016.
As I sit here watching the Olympic Games, contemplating what The Mission Continues means to me, I realize that like the Olympics, Mission Continues brings diverse people together to achieve things that they may not have thought possible.
A year ago I did not know what I was doing or where I was headed. I had graduated from seminary, but depression quickly took over my life. I did not identify with being a veteran or much of anything else. Part of my healing has come from rediscovering and reconnecting with who I am.
While I floundered I sought connection and community, but did not know where to find it. I needed somewhere that it was okay to be broken; where people would not pressure me to be anything I was not feeling up to at the moment but would be there for me when I needed support.
Dozens of Mission Continues Platoon Members formed up into teams and spread out across back alleys in the early morning darkness. Flashlight beams picked out shoes and lumpy sleeping bags poking out from behind dumpsters and under piles of debris. On closer inspection these dark forms became homeless men and women, many of them veterans, camped out on the back streets of Phoenix. The Platoon Members surveyed them one by one, learning about their needs so that a coalition of local agencies could find them housing and support to get back on their feet.