Still Supporting Veterans, a Half Million Video Views Later
September 20, 2017 | 4-minute read
In August 2011, the Make the Connection team heard from 21 Veterans in Minneapolis and met a remarkable military couple: Trista, a Veteran of the Army, Marine Corps, and Army National Guard; and Hector, a U.S. Army Ranger. Trista shared her experience with military sexual trauma and PTSD. Hector discussed his flashbacks, which led to legal issues. Together, their story created a powerful video that has inspired us and almost 500,000 viewers.
Nearly six years after they told their story, we caught up with Trista and Hector. Their work in the Veteran community continues to inspire today. Hear how they’re making a lasting impact on the lives of Veterans in Minnesota and across the country.
Note: Questions and answers have been edited and condensed for clarity.
Make the Connection: Since sharing your story with us in August 2011, how have you stayed involved in the Veteran community?
Trista: Since 2011, a lot has happened. I started a program called Veterans Voices, which uses the arts and humanities to connect Veterans and non-Veterans in communities. And now, I’ve recently returned to the nonprofit housing world to do affordable housing for Veterans and their families. Both Hector and I were contributors to “The Attorney’s Guide to Defending Veterans in Criminal Court,” each writing a chapter in that law book that’s now the premier law book for Veterans’ issues in the country.
Hector: I’ve been really focused on the practice with psychotherapy and developing programs within the mental health field. I’ve developed and directed the largest domestic abuse program here in Minnesota, pushing about 230 guys through it a year.
Make the Connection: Your video about your experiences with mental health challenges and recovery has been viewed nearly half a million times. When you think about how many Veterans and family members you have reached, what does that mean to you?
Hector: As you were saying that, I just pictured myself when I used to sit in the basement, in front of a computer, not knowing what time of day it was, and not believing that there’s anybody that would be able to understand my story or that anybody would be able to help me. Hopefully, out of the half a million people who have viewed it, at least one person [was] helped.
Trista: I’m just grateful to have this opportunity to connect Veterans who would otherwise feel isolated. Oftentimes when I meet new Veterans who are sharing that frustration of being alone, I always tell them to go to the website and take a look so they can see the huge collections of stories, so that they understand. It’s like, “No, we’re all feeling this.” And there are other people like us. And there’s hope.
Make the Connection: How do you encourage a fellow Veteran who may be facing mental health challenges and is hesitant to reach out for support?
Trista: I think it’s really about normalizing it. Oftentimes, people have talked to me and they’re like, “You’re so well-adjusted,” and I’m like, “OK well, it takes time to get here and it’s a work in progress.” And so [it’s about] just sharing that I’ve done my own work and that I continue to do my own work and making it not a taboo conversation.
Make the Connection: How has reaching out for mental health support strengthened your family and your relationships?
Hector: It feels like we’re able to talk about things that we weren’t able to talk about before because we both have a common perspective toward getting that help. I don’t have to hide behind a façade that everything’s cool: “I got this, I’m totally OK. Don’t worry about me. I don't want to talk about it.” We’re able to say things openly: “Hey, honey. You’re doing some things that are not like what I’ve been accustomed to seeing. I’m wondering if you’ve looked at this yet.”
Just like Trista and Hector, hundreds of Veterans and family members have shared their stories of mental health recovery with Make the Connection. Watch and share their video below.