Iraq Veteran Helps Others Heal PTSD After 8 Suicide Attempts in One Year
Veteran talks about suicide to help other Veterans
Department of Veterans Affairs
August 29, 2017
“Helping my fellow Veterans at the VA has made me whole again. At this point, I wouldn’t dream of doing anything else.”Alexandra Gries
She tried to take her own life eight times in one year while serving as a soldier in the 4th Infantry Division in 2008. The stressors of combat, losing a couple of very close friends in battle and adapting to life back in the U.S. after serving in Iraq was too much for her to handle.
And when she left the Army a few months later after being assigned to a wounded warrior unit – and she came back to Fresno where she grew up – things didn’t get any better. But she went to VA for help, and the process of healing began.
Alexandrea Gries, now a peer support specialist with the VA Central California Health Care System, has come a long way in eight years thanks to the VA in Fresno and the people who work there, she said.
Starting out at the VA as a volunteer and work study student, escorting patients by wheelchair and working in the canteen store, the kitchen and then the coffee shop – Gries said she realized right away VA was a place she could relate to, and the people there were people she could relate with.
“I developed a very strong kinship,” Gries said. “I love these people, and this is the only family I have now.”
“Alexandrea Gries is a true leader. She has impacted so many lives in a positive way, and she’s been through so much,” said Mary Golden, the VA CCHCS Voluntarily Service Program manager.
Pushing Wheel Chairs Nine Hours a Day – “I love these Vets.”
Although she knows she’ll probably never fully recover from the scars of war, Gries said she believes the healing starts with sharing her experiences with others.