Veteran Wydia Davis was not an athlete

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News
Veteran Wydia Davis was not at all athletic when she joined the military, but now finds walking 10-15 miles easy.

OKEECHOBEE — Born and raised in Okeechobee, Wydia Davis joined the U.S. Army because her parents did not have the resources to put her through college. When she was a junior in high school, recruiters began showing up at the school and she began considering the idea. She was ready to get out on her own but was a little iffy about the military, she said. She decided if she joined, she would be able to go to school and get a degree in something. She was not at all athletic, she said. Her oldest brother was the athlete in the family.

She and her younger brother, Marcus, were in band. She was not physically active at all, did not run or exercise. “My recruiter suggested I might want to try running or something, but I was like, ‘Nah.’ I wish I would have listened, though, because my first PT test was horrible. I was only able to do like two push-ups, maybe five sit-ups and running two miles… uh-uh. That was not happening.” Once she got used to it, the exercise got easy for her and even now, she said, she can walk 10-15 miles without a problem.

Her family did not mind that she joined the military, she said, but they were not at all happy with where she went for her first permanent duty station. She went to basic training in Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., and AIT (advanced individual training) at Fort Gordon, where she was trained as a personnel service specialist. Immediately afterward, she was sent to Germany. She was given three choices — Texas, Korea or Germany. Her recruiter had been to Germany and told her it was really nice and she would love it. An overseas tour was a requirement anyway, so she decided to go ahead and get it over with, but she never made it back to the States.

She worked as a reassignment clerk and helped people transition back to the States. She started out cutting orders for people who were leaving but had a lot of difficulty with the position, so Chief Vega developed a system to make it easier for people coming down the pipeline. She ended up with a new job checking to make sure each person had all their paperwork ready, and she scheduled briefings for them.

“That was everybody, lieutenants, captains, everybody. If they were leaving, they had to come through me first,” she said. It was a big, heavy load, but it turned out to be a job she was very good at. She stayed there until she left the military. They kept her there because no one else wanted to do her job, she said. When she left, they had a hard time filling the position. She did not mind that she was kept there so long, though. “Once I got into it, it became like second nature to me.”

One of the things she said she will never forget was going through basic training in Missouri and going home for Christmas. Her leave was supposed to be for two weeks, but while she was home, there was a blizzard in Missouri and she was not able to get back for two more weeks. When she finally did get back, there was snow everywhere, and that was the first time she ever saw snow. “I was like, ‘What the heck is this?’”

Special to the Lake Okeechobee News
Veteran Wydia Davis is thankful for her family and the way they have helped her cope with PTSD.

The same thing happened when she went home for a holiday while she was stationed in Germany. While she was at home, there was a blizzard in Germany. “They had snow piled up everywhere!” She found the cold weather very difficult to get used to when she first arrived, especially when she had to exercise at 6 a.m. and it was below zero. Eventually, she got used to it, though.

Davis’s tour ended early, because she was medically separated from the service after a car accident. The accident was fatal for her fiance and, because she was driving, it really took a toll on her, she said. It was difficult physically as well, because her pelvis was fractured in two places. Because of her injury, she knew she would not be physically able to complete the requirements to become a sergeant and would be stuck at the same rank for 10 years and then would be discharged anyway. She chose to be medically separated with all her benefits.

When she got home, she struggled a lot mentally and emotionally. She found herself moving all over the place, and her family had no idea where she was most of the time. “I did not know post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was so serious,” she said. “I wish they would do more to educate you while you are in the service, because I had no idea what was wrong with me.” She did not find out that PTSD was a real condition until 2018, she said. Although she was not in combat, the car accident that killed her fiance fueled the PTSD, she said. She had attachment issues; she secluded herself and did not want to be around others. She had a very hard time dealing with people. “I just wanted to be by myself.” She went on to say she is thankful it is not worse, though, because some people with PTSD are unable to function in society at all.

A customer at her last job was kind enough to point her in the right direction for help with benefits. He was a Vietnam veteran and explained what PTSD is and how the VA can help. He came in three separate times to make sure she had the information she needed.

It was like a huge weight being lifted off her shoulders, she said. Her parents have also been very understanding. They never made her feel that she needed to get out on her own just because she is grown. They are very supportive and kind. Things are starting to look better for her now, and she is having fewer and fewer panic attacks.

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