Although Vet Centers offer unlimited counseling appointments, Army Veteran Sandra Hardy had it set in her mind she would only need a couple of visits.
With skepticism swarming her thoughts, Hardy opened the door to her local Oklahoma City Vet Center with the intent to leave as quickly as possible. To her surprise – and with the ongoing commitment of her counselor Valerie Tucker – what she thought would be just a handful of appointments turned into recurring visits over three years.
Within that time, Hardy has flourished from what she refers to herself as being a ”prisoner in my home” to thriving on a new path that leaves behind her invisible chains.
Now able to check off items from her bucket list, she has rediscovered herself. The brave soldier has embraced her curious side and began to travel the world after her latest achievement of graduating from college. She now sees limitless possibilities for her future.
As a Vet Center advocate, Hardy says her counselor “met me where I was at to help build and establish trust. I used to be in fight-or-flight mode, but she gave me the tools to work through my emotions. She believed in me when I did not believe in myself.”
Tucker, a licensed clinical social worker, describes with great pride witnessing the Veteran’s transformation since she first came to the Vet Center.
“Who Sandra was years ago, to where she is now, she has truly flourished,” Tucker said. “I take great pride in all of the Veterans I serve to help them achieve the quality of life they deserve, as Sandra has worked so hard for.”
Once Hardy found safety and trust with individual counseling, she began finding community with her fellow brothers and sisters in group therapy.
“It feels wonderful!” she said. “I feel free because they do not judge me on what I say or feel. I am able to open up and just be me. I feel safe.”
She was once skeptical of Vet Centers and now can’t help but urge others to open their Vet Center doors. She now urges others to not suffer in silence.
“Whether it is suicidal thoughts or military sexual trauma, or even just loneliness, I recommend that you go to the Vet Center because there is something there for everybody,” she added. “It works. You just have to do your part.”
Vet Centers are built to serve communities that build strong bonds of camaraderie and connection. Vet Centers offer an array of readjustment services and specialized counseling to eligible Veterans, service members and families. Learn more by visiting vetcenter.va.gov or call the confidential Vet Center Call Center 24/7 at 1-877-927-8387.