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NEWS | March 22, 2023

“If your mental health isn’t good, nothing else will be.”

By MaryTherese Griffin Army

Soldiers are tough, no doubt. There is a perception that comes with being in the Army, that also includes strong, independent, protective Americans who get things done. Staff Sgt. Fevee Fontejon fit the mold of a Soldier for ten years, then reality set in. She wants her journey to be a lesson for anyone suffering, especially with mental health issues.
“It’s ok to ask for help and take a knee. This does not signify that you are weak,” said the thirty- year- old licensed practical nurse specialist.
Twice stationed in Korea, then Germany, Fontejon eventually suffered from PTSD.

“When I was stationed in Germany my primary care provider suggested I transfer to a Soldier Recovery Unit closer to my home.” As is the case in the nursing world, Fontejon spent most of her time taking care of others and focusing little or not at all on herself. “I put on a happy face but I was actually at the lowest point in my life and wanted to escape from it permanently.” Fontejon suffered from anxiety and nightmares. “I didn’t recognize it as depression or PTSD. I stopped sleeping, I would only work out all the time and I would forget to eat. I will tell you while I was in Germany, there were triggers from my prior duty station. I hit a wall and my PTSD was prominent.”

She felt like a failure because she couldn’t keep her head in the game and perform the way she used to. In May 2022 she arrived at Joint Base Lewis McChord [JBLM] Soldier Recovery Unit [SRU] where she began to get out of her head and into life again. “I didn’t think the SRU was there for my case. We have had this notion for years that the SRU’s, formerly WTU’s, were for combat related injuries only. Boy was I surprised they could help me,” she said. The JBLM SRU not only helped build her confidence through adaptive sports and activities, they worked with her on the clinical side as well. “I wasn’t expecting all the activities and support when I got to JBLM SRU. I definitely got all the support I needed and found ways to function again.”

From equine therapy to snow skiing and more, Fontejon is finding life fun again and her future very bright even if it will be out of the Army where she planned to serve a full thirty years. “I’m getting out of the Army. It will be better for my health to do something else. I am working with Veterans Services through the Career Skills Program and to me it’s still like serving, so I am happy.”

She wants to spread her message to any Soldier who will listen, any Soldier who may need The Army Recovery Care Program one day. She gives them a reminder and a boost of confidence.
“If your mental health isn’t good, nothing else will be. Just know that not everything is as it seems. As far as the SRU? It’s a wonderful experience. There’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. It doesn’t matter if you are planning to get out or return to duty you should take advantage of this program that helps with visible and invisible wounds.”