Angie Peacock remembers the first time she connected with another post-9/11 veteran. It was 2009, just around the time Angie was taking charge of her life after years of self-medicating to dull her depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“You didn’t have to explain yourself or tell your story. Everybody just understood,” she says about the Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) Alumni Summit. “I walked away thinking ‘Wow, maybe I do have something to offer.’”
The Angie who came home from Iraq in October 2003 might not have considered such a positive thought.
Her emotional spiral downward started in South Korea, her first duty station abroad after joining the U.S. Army in 1998. An unreported sexual assault planted the seed for the PTSD that would develop when her battalion deployed to Baghdad, Iraq. While there, Angie coordinated and participated in convoys, living under constant fear of snipers and improvised explosive devices.
“(Living like that) kind of shatters your preconceived notion of humanity,” Angie says. “The value of life means nothing. If you’re wearing a uniform, you’re dead. If you’re blonde with blue eyes, you could be kidnapped or raped.”
When Angie returned home after more than three years overseas, doctors diagnosed her with PTSD and she was medically retired. “I felt like I asked for help and was kicked out,” Angie says. “I thought my life was over when I couldn’t put on my uniform anymore. I loved the Army and didn’t want to leave.”
After retiring from the Army, Angie continued to struggle, using prescription medication and illegal drugs to cope with her PTSD. Her marriage fell apart and she was evicted from her home.
“PTSD took me to a level of depression I didn’t know existed,” Angie said. “I wanted to die. It was like a chemistry experiment. How much can I take in one day to kill myself?” After several suicide attempts, Angie saw a doctor who recognized the urgency of her case. Angie committed to rehabilitation and began participating in WWP events like equine therapy and 5K races.
The WWP Alumni Summit was the biggest break in her recovery and showed her the power of accountability and engagement. Then in February 2014, the Physical Health and Wellness team at WWP convinced Angie to try a 10-week CrossFit program. She’s been active ever since.
When she’s not at the gym, Angie spends her time studying for her bachelor’s degree in psychology. She remains dedicated to serving others, and one day hopes to become a therapist for other veterans living with PTSD.
“I was always afraid to try anything super physical because of my residual back and ankle injuries from the Army,” admits Angie. “I didn't really think I'd last this long. Then I had my first super hard work out, and I didn't die! I felt like I conquered the world. I couldn’t believe my body was capable of so much more than I had previously thought. WWP truly empowered me!”