Zero Week

The introduction is usually the hardest part but here goes nothing. Everyone has a story. So what would make mine so great or different from the rest?

Nothing, honestly. I’m just someone who, as a young adult, connected with a higher calling — particularly for her country — without being able to fathom what could have possibly been in store for me later on. 

My name is Izzy, and here’s my story.

Born and raised both in California and Central America, I come from a family of hard-working entrepreneurs who did their best to ensure I had a good home. Soon after I graduated high school, I figured out how much I wanted to go into public service and help others. After doing some research and speaking with different recruiters, I enlisted in the United States Air Force and embarked on what would be roughly six years of military service that would change my life forever. 

After what turned into an extended stay in Boot Camp (an ankle injury down a flight of stairs in Zero Week… let's not get into that right now. I was a little too excited to be there), and Technical School after Boot Camp, I found myself at my first duty station. I blinked and 5 years and 4 months later, I found myself signing my reserve duty papers to transfer back home to California from my last active duty station,completing a total of 6 years in military service.

I did my fair share of getting to know the world, thanks to Uncle Sam. I deployed three times; two trips to Afghanistan, and one to Southeast Asia. The experience was bittersweet, but nothing could really prepare me for what would come in the years ahead. 

When I finally came home, I had never felt more relieved and terrified at the same time.

It was Zero Week all over again but this time, there was no safety net.

The idea of coming back and relying on others I hadn’t really communed with in years made me slightly uncomfortable. It felt like I was regressing. I had somewhat of a plan — going to school — but for what? I wasn’t exactly sure. 

When I started school and reconnecting with my friends and family, I admit that I thought I could reintegrate into society without skipping a beat. I was severely mistaken.

When I was with friends, it was difficult to find common ground, or to relate to their current lives and mindsets. I was eager to share my experiences and thought they would understand (maybe even learn a thing or two), but again I was mistaken. It was like I was speaking a completely different language. When I was with family I felt pressure to live up to their misguided perception of who I was. Before I was able to recognize my reality, I found myself in a cycle of frustration, personal rejection and alienation. I started to believe that I had lost something that maybe I would never be able to find again. 

I slowly started to lose contact with most of the people I was in the service with. I found myself slipping further into this state of feeling lost. I felt angry that there was absolutely no one who could possibly understand the lonely, dismal place I lived in. 

I was okay though, or so I thought. Right? I mean I was in school. I was home, in a safe place and on the “right path”. I was back… or was I?

At this point you’re probably wondering, “Well, what does this have to do with me? Why am I even reading this right now?” It may mean that in some way you can relate, or are searching for answers, or are trying to understand what it means to be a veteran who is faced with what life is like after being an active duty service member. 

You honestly couldn’t be in a better place. There is no better time than now for your perspective to be opened… shifted… and this is where War Horse Creek comes in. The people who are putting this program together want to provide a total and complete shift in the way the civilian world views veterans. They also want to help us veterans see ourselves differently, in a more positive light. Most importantly, the program is designed to be an opportunity to heal and grow and connect in one of the most profound ways  — through horses. From my experience with Libby, the rescued mustang I spent time with, my life has not been the same since I’ve met her. It’s the reason I’m writing to you today. I know, I know, it may sound weird — working with horses in therapy. It might even seem like a joke. (Trust me, I can sense the eye rolling from here.) But for me, it worked. It continues to work. It has helped me feel less lost, and more “myself.”

I’m writing this so that you all know we’re here, we exist, we’re searching for answers too. And we’re just getting started. Thank you for reading this. I'm looking forward to talking more about this in the future.

-   Izzy