What’s in the heart of many veterans?
My immediate thought was service! In the past few years, I’ve developed a sincere appreciation for countless veterans continuing to be a source of inspiration and support in service to others.
Back in 2010, I decided to transition out of the Navy to solely focus on motherhood. When I separated, the last thing on my mind was identifying as a veteran. Instead, I relished my newfound identity as a stay-at-home mom and military spouse. At the time, my husband also served in the Navy with continued service until retirement.
Then the pandemic and lockdowns happened. Life slowed down due to quarantine, with afternoons free from taking the kids to their activities. So, I took advantage of the free time to reflect on the aspects of my life that shaped who I am today.
My military experience played a huge role in learning how to work with different personalities and assume leadership responsibilities. For a young 23-year-old, it was overwhelming, but on the other side was growth, resilience, endurance.
It all started when I joined my highschool’s NJROTC. Who knew that marching in formation, wearing a uniform, and practicing discipline would leave such an impression? Nevertheless, it left an indelible mark that led me to pursue an NROTC scholarship in college, followed by eleven years of service in the Navy.
Veterans are a Rare Gem
Only 7% (18 million) of the U.S. adult population (331 million) served in the military (according to the census). Women veterans are even rarer – of the 18 million veterans, 1.7 million or 9% of veterans are women. Yet, in the hearts of many of these veterans, serving others in their communities remains.
I observed it firsthand when I joined Team RWB San Diego in February 2020. Team RWB is a non-profit organization with the mission to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity. It’s run by dedicated volunteers committed to enhancing veterans’ physical/mental/emotional health while developing meaningful connections and reigniting their sense of purpose. With isolation on the rise observed during the pandemic, Team RWB provided a community of support to get veterans, active military, and families physically and socially active. If you’d like to get connected with other veterans in your community, this is the place for you!
Update: Unfortunately I haven’t reconnected with Team RWB here in Jacksonville, since there aren’t events near where I live. However, I noticed there are many veterans organizations in the area. One I recently discovered is Hope4Veterans. A nonprofit specifically serving women veterans and their families.
Veterans’ Heart Health
Since I’m addressing heart matters, I’d like to bring up the heart health of veterans. A 2019 research study reported in Science Daily the higher likelihood of younger veterans to have heart disease when compared to nonveterans. The study cited that heart disease could be more prevalent to the younger generation (ages 35+) due to the following: “nature of conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, modern warfare, changing diets, changing approaches to leisure and exercise, higher rates of obesity in younger veterans than nonveterans at the same age, and higher rates of drinking, smoking, and mental illness.”
Another study published in circulation focused on the heart health of women veterans. Heart disease happens to be the #1 cause of death for women in the U.S. Women veterans also show a higher rate of cardiovascular disease when compared to civilians. The infographic below provided by the authors of the study shows further details, and you can find out more about the study in this article:
Reduce risk factors with Self-Care
Do you know that healthy lifestyle change has a powerful impact on improving your health status? What’s good for your heart is also good for the rest of your body, mind, and spirit.
It focuses on these self-care lifestyle behaviors –
Healthful Eating, Movement, Managing Stress, Sleep,
Meaningful Connections, and Avoidance of Risky Substances.
The American College of Lifestyle Medicine provided an excellent infographic to show how you can get started restoring your health today.
Start Small to Avoid the Overwhelm
You might feel a little overwhelmed with the many behaviors to adapt to your lifestyle. No worries – start where you think is the best starting point for you. One that you feel will give you a jumpstart to take care of your well-being.
Would you like to eat more vegetables? Or eat less processed sugary foods? Maybe you’d like to get more sleep?
Once you have one in mind, make it a small action that there’s no question you’d do it. For example, you’d like to eat less sugar.
The first step is to be as specific as you can with what you’d like to do. As far as eating less sugar, perhaps you’d like to start with your soda habit. Instead of avoiding soda at all costs, you can begin with drinking one less soda a day. And continue to consume less and less with each passing week.
Thank you for your heart of service.
My heart of appreciation extends to veterans continuing to impact and make a difference in the lives of others. Whether you’re a parent being a role model for your children or a leader in your community who inspires and supports those in need. I honor and salute you for continuing to shine your light and uplift those around you.
In honor of Veterans Day, we’re offering women veterans 25% off selected services (normally 10% off). Code: veteransday