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Army of One
by John Pederson
Issue 6
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Today, Amanda Gino faces the same stress as any other college student during the final exams, but this twenty-year-old Iraq veteran also remembers a time when she struggled alone, far away from her fellow students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Although she never experienced combat, twenty-year old Amanda Gino fought her own battle during the year she spent in operation Iraqi Freedom. Gino says she suffered from depression during her tour of duty but denied the symptoms in the medical screening process. She feared the stigma of psychological disorders in the military and the possible delay of her release.

Gino remembers the experiences, “You go through these forms with doctors. I put down that I was feeling depressed and really down. The doctor looked at it and said, “Was this something you wanted to talk about?”” Gino says she didn’t want to talk about it because she feared the consequences, “With my leader being the way she was, I was afraid she would make me a hold over.”

After spending twelve months stationed at Camp Udairi, near the Iraqi-Kuwaiti border, Gino looked forward to reuniting with family and friends and was eager to put the experience of war behind her. At nineteen-years-old, neither the weekend reserve training nor the classes at UW-Madison prepared her for the stress of active duty.

Despite her unit never experiencing combat, she remembers the difficulty of military life, “I would cry a lot. It was tough being so far from anything that makes your life easy.” But, according to Gino, she didn’t want others to see her internal struggle. She says the stigma against psychological problems kept her from expressing her feelings, “Sometimes the military is like a big high school. When someone finds something out they just go and tell everyone. I didn’t want it being put on my military record and have other people find out about it.”

And no one did find out about it. Today, Gino has little time to think about her experience in Iraq. Yet part of the transition to civilian life is coping with the psychological trauma of military service according to readjustment counselor Tom Deits, “We don’t want to make this process one where we just brush off human frailty and go on with our lives. You’re not going to be able to digest it and just go on with your life.”

There are thousands of soldiers, like Gino, who do go on with their lives. By hiding their pain, these individuals represent today’s true “Army of One.”

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