My name is Jessica Landeros. For many years, I was known as UT2 (SCW) “Can Do!” Jessica Mudgett. I am a wife and a mother. But I also am a recently retired Sailor. And not a day goes by that I don’t sincerely miss my identity as a Navy Seabee. I will never forget when that Navy ball cap was first placed on my head at Great Lakes back in 2002. I was so proud to become a Sailor that I held back tears when the Recruit Division Commander first called me “shipmate.”
But I soon assumed a new identity, I became a Seabee. Between 2003 and 2006, I completed three tours in Iraq, and I learned a lot. The Airmen who cared for me at the medical treatment facility in Kuwait, the Soldiers who trained in Convoy Security with me, the Marines who taught me how to clear buildings, and my fellow Seabees – they are all special to me. They shared important lessons and provided me a lifetime of great memories.
In fact, during much of my career, I had very limited contact with Sailors. That changed when, after returning home with a mild traumatic brain injury and severe post-traumatic stress disorder, I began to struggle. That’s when I enrolled in Navy Wounded Warrior (NWW) – Safe Harbor, the Navy’s program for wounded and ill Sailors and Coast Guardsmen.
While deployed to Iraq, I was involved in several fire battles, and I was struck in the head during a vehicle accident. After returning home, I tried to assimilate to life away from combat, but I felt lost. I was terrified of entering building with which I was not familiar, or walking through a parking garage, and I had a difficult time staying organized. I feared that I was no longer a good mother and wife. Last year, I was medically retired from the Navy.
Many veterans share my experience. And some have told me that they have felt “used up” by the military; they have likened their transition from the military to being “chewed up and spit out.” But while adapting to civilian life has been a difficult journey for me, I have been fortunate to have had a different experience than my friends. Non-medical care manager provided me a lifeline by enrolling me in its Anchor Program.
After my symptoms surfaced, LT Edward Valdez, my NWW non-medical care manager at Naval Medical Center San Diego, was a tremendous source of support. As I prepared to retire, I signed up for the Anchor Program only to humor him; I was sure I didn’t yet another “resource” during my transition. But I was wrong. So many veterans are lonely and depressed, and it’s a shame more don’t have a resource like the Anchor Program readily available.
My Anchor Program mentor, Jennifer, has made a huge impact on my life. There have been times that I didn’t feel like talking, and she has understood. Never pushy or obnoxious, Jennifer has simply been available when I needed her. She is a Navy veteran and a mother, and she can relate to my unique experiences. Jennifer has ensured that, despite my distance from military life, I never feel forgotten.
It is my dream to overcome my symptoms and board a plane to attend an adaptive athletics camp; ultimately, I hope to compete on behalf of the Navy in track and field at a competition. It’s a tangible goal that I would never have without the support of NWW and Jennifer. It has given me something to reach for, something to which I can look forward.
Get involved in the Anchor Program today!
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