WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY)-- Jennifer Crane is a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom. As a victim of post-traumatic stress disorder, Crane now travels the country trying to raise awareness about what many service members are going through in their post-war lives.
Monday night she visited the Lumina Theater on the UNCW campus to share her story.
"My first day of basic training was Sept. 11th 2001," says Crane."It was a year and a half after the towers fell that I deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Like most soldiers I went through that whole entire battlefield experience, I guess you could call it. Everything we've seen in the movies and magazines, that was a part of my everyday life. But when I came home I was very isolated and very shut off."
Crane says she did not know how to cope with those memories. They led to drug use, homelessness and eventually jail. Although her situation is extreme, she says many veterans suffer from similar cases of mental illness.
"Some newer statistics that are out are saying that 41% of returning troops are coming home with some form of a mental illness which is most commonly post-traumatic stress disorder," says Crane.
With over 100,000 troops coming home in the last year Crane wants to inspire students to be understanding to many of those veterans who may join them in classes this fall and in the future.
"You never know what they are going through or if they could have post-traumatic stress disorder," says Hannah Bingham, a UNCW student. "So I think just being as grateful as you can to them is something that they would really appreciate."
Crane says if you are a former service member dealing with a mental illness that you can go to Give an Hour, which is an organization that provides free mental health care to veterans and their family.