Danelea Kelly and her mother at Camp Striker, Iraq, in 2005.
By Tania Meireles, WTC Stratcom
AW2 Veteran Danelea Kelly had two tours in Iraq, one in 2005-2006 and again in 2007-2008. She was a driver leading convoys of supplies. Explosions and being shot at were common occurrences. She was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) while in Iraq and an Army chaplain had her medically evacuated in 2008. Her plans for a 20 year Army career and following her Family’s tradition of being in the military ended, she was medically retired from the Army in 2009.
“I was crushed and depressed,” Kelly said. “I lost the best part of me. Being in the military is like being with a Family. Once you have left the military, you feel like a fish out of water. No one seems to understand you, and you don’t know what you are going to do with yourself.”
Because of Kelly’s struggle with PTSD and pain in her back, knees, and feet, she was having a hard time finding employment that will not aggravate her condition and will allow her to go to frequent medical appointments at the Veterans Affairs (VA) medical center. She doesn’t sleep well, has mood swings, hides from people, doesn’t like leaving the house, and hates crowds. She also tried going to school but with her memory problems, school was very difficult. She couldn’t handle the stress anymore.
“With all I was going through with PTSD, my physical impairments, trying to get to VA appointments and looking for a job-having my AW2 Advocate around helped take the burden off of me,” she said. “She calls me and makes sure I am ok. If she can’t get in touch with me, she stops by and makes sure I have food and a place to stay. She encourages me, counsels me, and is available 24/7.”
Danelea Kelly during her deployment in Iraq.
Kelly praised AW2 and the National Organization on Disability (NOD), the latter of whom arranged for her to speak about her experiences with members of Congress. AW2 and NOD have been assisting her in finding the right resources, such as financial and career and education assistance. Kelly has been outspoken about her struggles with PTSD and finding employment. She talked about the importance of programs like AW2 and NOD, and asked Congress to expand these programs.
“AW2 and NOD are very important to a Veteran like me,” she said. “I don’t take them for granted. My gratitude, my words, my actions-show how sincerely grateful I am for this help during the most troublesome time of my life.”
With the help of AW2 and NOD, she is focusing on the things she can do and working around PTSD for a “plan b” or “plan c.” Kelly participated in the Veterans Affairs Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program (VR&E), also known as VocRehab. This program assists with employment services such as job-training, job-seeking skills, and résumé development—as well as rehabilitation services, counseling, and training. Her Advocate also suggested that she apply for the Wounded Warrior Project TRACK program.
“TRACK really concentrates on healing the Veteran holistically,” said Kelly. “They help you with counseling, physical fitness, physical therapy, college classes, training, etc. You are in classes with other Veterans like you. Your expenses are taken care of and you leave there ready to succeed. I am so excited, I couldn’t ask for more of a blessing.”
“For all the organizations that don’t give up on me, I won’t give up on them. I keep fighting to say thank you to them. Next to God, they are my help and strength.”