Looking for volunteers who would benefit from a 10-week group to address the challenges of DADT and its impact on LGBTQ+ Veterans

One Veteran’s Story

When I was in 3rd grade, my mom and I read One Child, by Torrey Hayden – a true story about a little girl who was abandoned and abused and had lost the ability to speak due to trauma. Then she met Torrey – her special education teacher who helped her find her voice and resilience. From that point on, I wanted to be a special education teacher – to help people. My goals changed after I found solace through writing and majored in English during my undergraduate studies. I joined the Utah Army National Guard in 1998 when our nation was at peace to pay for college. Then September 11th, 2001 happened and my career path changed drastically.

I deployed to Afghanistan in March 2002, for Operation Enduring Freedom and learned about the unique challenges of war. I spent the next decade in the Utah Army (and Air) National Guard serving on active duty, as an intelligence analyst in collaboration with the National Security Agency. While I loved wearing the uniform, it became extremely difficult to watch friends and co-workers struggle with their identities as members of the LGBTQ+ community. We were all serving during the “don’t Ask, don’t tell” era and could still be discharged for a disclosure or act. Additionally, soldiers and airmen were struggling with their combat experiences. Over the next several years, seven members of my “family in green and blue” died by suicide. The last two were both closeted members and the impact of those deaths were profound. Since September 11, 2001, more than 30,000 Veterans have died by suicide and according to the VA, LGBTQ+ Veterans experience depression and suicidal ideation at twice the rate of heterosexual Veterans. 

“Don’t ask, don’t tell” was repealed in September 2011, which allowed members of the military to serve without having to hide their identities. Thousands of people were discharged during the harmful policy, which undoubtedly caused these Veterans trauma. Today, LGBTQ+ service members are lucky enough to serve openly without penalty, but the stigma still lingers and the fear of repercussions persists. 

In 2010, I made the difficult decision to leave the military and went back to school and received my Master’s in Education. Three years later, I began working for the Department of Human Services to help youth, families and emerging adults receive services. Currently, I’m working on my Master’s in Social Work and am excited to be doing my internship at the Utah Pride Center as a therapist. I plan on working directly with folks in a clinical setting and hope to start a Veteran’s group as well as a support group for mixed-orientation couples. I am also fortunate to be working with senior programs and Deb Hall- Go SAGE Utah! 

While the abandoned little girl in One Child did not identify as LGBTQ+, she seemingly recovered remarkably well with the help of therapists and teachers. Many LGBTQ+ children and Veterans have faced similar events in their lives and need help working through grief and trauma. Here’s some suggestions that I’ve found helpful in my own life:

RE LATIONSHIP?  If you answered “yes” to either question,
contact: jackiekeel@utahpridecenter.org
or call 801-891-4652.  Looking for volunteers who would benefit
from a 10-week group to address the
challenges of DADT and its impact on LGBTQ+
Veterans  Groups will be held in a hybrid format at 1380 S.
Main Street, SLC, and virtually
  • Practice self-compassion – it is the basis for self-care
  • Seek support – connectedness is essential for recovery
  • Practice mindfulness – helps with emotional regulation
  • Eat healthy foods – allows our minds to stay focused
  • Get plenty of sleep – improves memory and processing
  • Write – creates awareness and encourages opening up

If you are in crisis, please contact:

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