Branch: Illinois Army National Guard and Army Reserves
Years Served: 7
Rank: E-3/ PFC
Military Occupation: CBRN (74D), Chemical Soldier, (gas gas gas)
Hometown: Powell, OH
Twitter Handle: @Mrst_larissa
Tell us a little about you outside of the military:
- I met my husband in the army while deployed to Afghanistan, he was in the British Army.
- We have two children who are 10 and 11 now. I have been a stay-at-home mom and caretaker for the last decade. I went right from war straight to being a wife and then being a mother. I say I have a delayed transition story because it’s taken me years to finally get back into the civilian world outside of being a soldier or mom.
- I participated this last summer in a program with Warrior Scholar Program and I really found myself and my community. I decided while there that I will one day go to Syracuse Law School.
- Like many veterans I struggled with my mental health and in my story, the Vet Center and the VA kept me alive but the Warrior Scholar Program gave me a purpose and a life again.
Why are you participating in the fly-in with IAVA?
- I’m going to level with you, to be blunt, I loved the army, but I was a crappy soldier. Running and shooting; I was horrible at it. But I was a damn good battle buddy, and I still am. If I struggled so much with depression, suicide, and alcohol that means others are too. I am only here today because of the Vet Center and VA. Because I am patient with them, I get the care I need to survive. I have been sober and alive for 2 years, and I have my first real full-time job since the army that supports my family and community because of a program that is funded by donors. The Warrior Scholar Program taught me how to go back to work and be successful and is teaching me how to reach higher education.
How did your military experience shape you to be the person you are today?
- I learned exactly who I was in the army, and I met my husband and had my kids because of the army. I had the best friends who became family. Serving my country I learned how important public service is and how to give wholeheartedly.
Which one of IAVA’s policy priorities do you believe is the most pressing?
- As a suicide survivor the importance of funding not only the VA, but the Vet Center, and also other none traditional care. Never would I have thought schooling would be what speaks to me and what saved me. Care for families and spouses — I see looking at my own family and the generations of people who served how the trauma of war has trickled down to even the youngest of us.
- Why? I am proof that when you invest in someone, into their rehab, they can not only survive but flourish, and contribute back to their family and community.
Which one of IAVA’s policy priorities do you have the strongest personal connection to?
- I know the answer you are looking for isn’t all of them. But every single one of the issues affects me or someone I love. Education benefits, the Forever GI Bill, is why I get to go back to school.
- MST — My sister is a Navy veteran and MST survivor.
- Every single one of the priorities affects my life personally.
More #AllStarAdvocacy videos are available in IAVA’s 2023 All-Star Advocacy Fly-In video showcase.