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Sam Hargrove was stationed at Tallil Air Base in Iraq in 2003 when tragedy struck. A bomb exploded while Sam was calling home from a tent on the base. The shock wave blew through the tent, ripped out the communications on the base and caused Sam a traumatic brain injury. Even in the confusion of the following moments, and despite the fact that she was wounded, Sam was able to pick herself up and bring a junior Airman away from the blast zone, getting them to safety.

Growing up in Georgia, Sam credits her resilience to the tough love she received from her adoptive father. When Sam was young, he would share stories about his time in the Army assigned to an Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit fighting in Vietnam. Combined with an older brother in the Marines who recommended the Air Force, it was only a matter of time before Sam decided to join the military as well. Sam enlisted in the Air Force in 1996 and began her training.

Sam became proficient in computer networking and operating systems and took on an admin role in Iraq as part of the 54th Combat Communications Squadron. Following the explosion, Sam was healed physically and continued to serve for another 4 years, finally leaving the military in 2007.

She returned home to Georgia, attempting to resume the life she left there, but something was different. Sam was moody and, at times, very angry, often lashing out at her loved ones. Sam lived near Fort Benning, and gunshots from the field exercises at the nearby base would often trigger her PTSD, including flashbacks of the explosion she lived through. One day in 2010, Sam’s godson came to her and admitted that he was afraid of her. She finally realized what her anger was doing to her and her family, and she sought treatment. But that was only the beginning of her mental health journey.

Sam started attending counseling sessions, but she found that this didn’t provide everything she was missing in her life. Her situation progressively got worse until one night Sam got drunk and went for a drive, intending to swerve off the road and end it all. Luckily, she returned home safely and the next day, she told her counselor what had happened. Sam was entered into a 90-day inpatient program and, though the program put an end to the current crisis, upon exiting, the same patterns started to emerge once again.

This time, however, Sam was determined to get better for herself and for her nieces, nephews, and stepchildren, who kept her motivated even in the face of her PTSD. So, Sam reached out to Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) and the experience completely changed the trajectory of her life.

Sam began meeting veterans in her community through a WWP Peer Support Group, which allowed her to see that she was not alone in her struggle with PTSD. Through her peers, she learned about WWP’s Soldier Ride®, a cycling program that encourages connections among veterans through a physical challenge. This is one of many physical activities put together by WWP, including the Verizon-supported Carry Forward® 5K series, presented by USAA®. The friendships she made and the empowerment she felt was overwhelming. Regarding Soldier Ride, Sam realized, “I don’t have to be limited by injuries or ailments… It was a freeing moment for me spiritually and emotionally.”

Sam continued to open up, and her and her fiancée participated in WWP’s Project Odyssey®, which combines mental health workshops and adventure-based learning to help veterans overcome the invisible wounds they often carry. Through hard work and the help of this program, Sam and her fiancée were able to strengthen their relationship. However, she attributes her biggest breakthrough to WWP’s Warrior Care Network®, an intensive outpatient program that partners with four academic medical centers to provide holistic mental health care. “I finally allowed myself to be open and tell it all and not just avoid what was going on.”

Getting involved with WWP and the network of veterans that are a part of the program gave Sam what she needed to overcome her struggle and be there for her family. Connection is crucial to veterans who are struggling, and programs like the ones WWP provides and Verizon’s Make The Call campaign are actively encouraging veterans like Sam to connect and help each other in their journeys. Sam hopes that by telling her story, other veterans like her will realize that they are not alone, and if she can make this monumental change, they can too.

Sam Hargrove was stationed at Tallil Air Base in Iraq in 2003 when tragedy struck. A bomb exploded while Sam was calling home from a tent on the base. The shock wave blew through the tent, ripped out the communications on the base and caused Sam a traumatic brain injury. Even in the confusion of the following moments, and despite the fact that she was wounded, Sam was able to pick herself up and bring a junior Airman away from the blast zone, getting them to safety.

Growing up in Georgia, Sam credits her resilience to the tough love she received from her adoptive father. When Sam was young, he would share stories about his time in the Army assigned to an Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit fighting in Vietnam. Combined with an older brother in the Marines who recommended the Air Force, it was only a matter of time before Sam decided to join the military as well. Sam enlisted in the Air Force in 1996 and began her training.

Sam became proficient in computer networking and operating systems and took on an admin role in Iraq as part of the 54th Combat Communications Squadron. Following the explosion, Sam was healed physically and continued to serve for another 4 years, finally leaving the military in 2007.

She returned home to Georgia, attempting to resume the life she left there, but something was different. Sam was moody and, at times, very angry, often lashing out at her loved ones. Sam lived near Fort Benning, and gunshots from the field exercises at the nearby base would often trigger her PTSD, including flashbacks of the explosion she lived through. One day in 2010, Sam’s godson came to her and admitted that he was afraid of her. She finally realized what her anger was doing to her and her family, and she sought treatment. But that was only the beginning of her mental health journey.

Sam started attending counseling sessions, but she found that this didn’t provide everything she was missing in her life. Her situation progressively got worse until one night Sam got drunk and went for a drive, intending to swerve off the road and end it all. Luckily, she returned home safely and the next day, she told her counselor what had happened. Sam was entered into a 90-day inpatient program and, though the program put an end to the current crisis, upon exiting, the same patterns started to emerge once again.

This time, however, Sam was determined to get better for herself and for her nieces, nephews, and stepchildren, who kept her motivated even in the face of her PTSD. So, Sam reached out to Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) and the experience completely changed the trajectory of her life.

Sam began meeting veterans in her community through a WWP Peer Support Group, which allowed her to see that she was not alone in her struggle with PTSD. Through her peers, she learned about WWP’s Soldier Ride®, a cycling program that encourages connections among veterans through a physical challenge. This is one of many physical activities put together by WWP, including the Verizon-supported Carry Forward® 5K series, presented by USAA®. The friendships she made and the empowerment she felt was overwhelming. Regarding Soldier Ride, Sam realized, “I don’t have to be limited by injuries or ailments… It was a freeing moment for me spiritually and emotionally.”

Sam continued to open up, and her and her fiancée participated in WWP’s Project Odyssey®, which combines mental health workshops and adventure-based learning to help veterans overcome the invisible wounds they often carry. Through hard work and the help of this program, Sam and her fiancée were able to strengthen their relationship. However, she attributes her biggest breakthrough to WWP’s Warrior Care Network®, an intensive outpatient program that partners with four academic medical centers to provide holistic mental health care. “I finally allowed myself to be open and tell it all and not just avoid what was going on.”

Getting involved with WWP and the network of veterans that are a part of the program gave Sam what she needed to overcome her struggle and be there for her family. Connection is crucial to veterans who are struggling, and programs like the ones WWP provides and Verizon’s Make The Call campaign are actively encouraging veterans like Sam to connect and help each other in their journeys. Sam hopes that by telling her story, other veterans like her will realize that they are not alone, and if she can make this monumental change, they can too.

Made possible with Verizon.


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