Rochester, N.Y. (WROC-TV) — Stacy Harris joined the Air Force right out of high school partly because she didn’t know what she wanted to do.
It wasn’t the military, but trying to transition out of it that ultimately led to her calling.
Her return home proved difficult as she tried to relate to her peers.
That experience nudged her toward the Veterans Outreach Center where she eventually volunteered then worked providing an open ear and helping hand to fellow veterans.
That mission has taken her to a new, exciting job that Harris talks about in her interview with Adam Chodak.
Adam Chodak: What did you do in the Air Force?
Stacy Harris: Medical logistics.
AC: And for folks who don’t know, what does that entail?
SH: It’s basically making sure all of the supplies that doctors and nurses need to take care of patients makes it there. We do the contracting, the receiving, the shipping, pretty much everything so they don’t have to think about that.
AC: Your role really reminds me how much goes into our military. It has to cover everything…
SH: Yes, especially in Iraq because when we have casualties or we’re short on things it became quite stressful to make sure we had what we needed.
AC: What as that experience like for you?
SH: It was challenging. I would say there were times when you felt good about what we were doing and then there were times when you were seeing a lot of death and destruction and sometimes evil. You know, you had kids that were injured, American soldiers that were injured, POWs, the whole gambit.
AC: What was it like coming up out and rejoining the non-military community?
SH: That was a rough integration for me, I think. I came out as a like a 21-year-old kid and bought a house and went to college with real kids so it was interesting trying to find my way back because I was in such a different space which is how I ended up at the Veterans Outreach Center because I just wanted to reconnect with military people.
AC: And with what role did you connect with them when you were at the VOC?
SH: I started as a volunteer and they just kind of threw me in for whatever they needed for the moment and eventually that turned into a job where they started their Compeer Corps program which is their vet-to-vet program so I started working with them.
AC: Why was that important to you?
SH: I think in my own processing back because when I got back I was only out for like 4 months before I came home so it was a very quick transition. It was veterans at the Veterans Outreach Center that helped me connect to services and realize what I was experiencing was normal for what I had been through and I wanted to be able to give that back.
AC: And now you’ve transitioned over to the VA, but you’re also doing some work with veterans in a similar fashion…
SH: Yeah, the VA just started a national peer support line, which is really exciting. They’ve been incorporating peer support into the VA for a while, but now there’s a focus on veterans that are at very high risk for suicide and I love it because I’m supporting veterans who are supporting veterans. So all the veterans that are at PSOC [Peer Support Outreach Center] are in recovery of some sort so it’s really cool.
AC: You seem very positive about what to me would be a very difficult job. We hear about the high suicide rate among veterans, how do you go about helping them, talking to them?
SH: I think partly using your own story of how you manage to get through it is validating in a way, validating peoples’ struggle, but also sharing that hope that it’s possible to navigate it and come out the other side.