Meet Tiffany, a veteran who both uses and volunteers with the JFS-sponsored food pantry for student veterans at Seattle Central College.
I like to say I’m a rare bird, but I’m not a unicorn. I am a single mother with three children who filed for divorce when I was in basic training.
I got married at 19, the day my husband went to basic training. He was deployed in Iraq, 2006 to 2007. When he came back, he was real screwed up. Looking back, I realize my husband had really bad PTSD. I didn’t know what PTSD looked like, but looking back, all the signs were there. My son had turned two, and I realized the marriage was not a healthy relationship. So, I left.
I knew I had to support my child, and we were in the middle of the war [in Iraq and Afghanistan]. So, at that point I was a 23-year-old with no more than a high school education. I had no family support system, and the Army was willing to give me 30 grand for a sign-on bonus. When you’re poverty level, that’s enticing.
I took my son to live with my sister-in-law and joined the military and had more children. I went to Iraq in 2010, and I went to Afghanistan in 2012. I was in the Diyala Province in Iraq. In Afghanistan, I was in Kandahar Province. My life then was basic training, have a baby, deploy, have a baby, deploy.
And I could not do it. I couldn’t be a human being. I could barely keep myself together. I could not be a soldier and a single mom and a human being. And my cheese slid off my cracker after my second deployment, and I got out.
When I got out of the military, I drove back up to Tacoma because, from 2008 to 2014 when I wasn’t deployed, I was stationed at Joint Base Lewis McChord. I came up here because I don’t have a lot of family support, but I have a lot of adopted family support. I have a good support system among other veterans. They were up here, so this is where I came back to.
My sister lives with me, too. She has lived with me for almost 10 years. My sister has been the backbone of my household. We come from a very economically depressed area. There are no jobs there.
My sister makes sure the laundry gets done, food gets made, groceries get bought. She is the logistical coordinator of the house. She helps me pick up the slack of everything I can’t do because my brain is screwed up. I don’t remember things like I used to.
Now, I’m at Seattle Central College. Growing up, I loved school. Science and Math. English. I loved to write. I love plants. I loved Biology. I love the earth. I loved school. I still love school. It’s just so hard. Because I don’t remember things like I used to.
But, I’m in school now to get enough papers to say I can practice nursing — the same job I was doing in the Army before I got out. My dream job is working at the VA. Either that or the Indian Health Service, because being a member of an underserved population, there are so many things that are so easy to fix. It just takes people. I know it means I’m not going to make the most money, but as long as I do it until I retire, I’ll get good retirement. That’s the kind of job I want — however high I can get up in nursing.
I like being an advocate for veterans. I’m a great advocate because it’s really hard to discredit me. Because no one can say, ‘If you only…’ Because I say, ‘Well, I did.’
I grew up poor, so I don’t have inherent wealth. And no one’s going to give me things. So, I’ve got to use my support system to try and establish them myself. And pray my kids don’t screw up. And pray they make it into college. And pray they can build off my success.
Did you know….27 percent of veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have struggled to provide food for their families? Please support the JFS Community-Wide Food Drive and help supply the Polack Food Bank and its pantry for veterans at Seattle Central College.