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From Battlefields to Yoga Mats: Celebrating Veterans Day with a Heartfelt Message


USAA Magazine, Fall 2010. Holly Petraeus, US Marines(unknown) Krista Smith (center-right)

Dear Readers,


Hi, I’m Krista, a US Marine Corps veteran. Today, as I sit to write this, my heart is full of stories – stories of bravery, resilience, and transformation. My 12 years in the Marine Corps have been a mosaic of experiences, each piece a chapter of my life that has shaped the person I am today. I want to share these with you, not just as a tale of my past, but as a bridge to connect, to empathize, and to inspire.


In 2006, I was deployed to Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Those days in the desert were not just about the physical challenges of combat; they were an emotional and mental crucible. The sights, the sounds, the constant vigilance - these experiences leave an indelible mark on your soul. It's a unique bond that ties all of us who have served there, an unspoken understanding of what we've been through.


My journey then led me to serve in US Embassies in Cairo, Egypt, and Zagreb, Croatia, as a Marine Security Guard. The shift from the frontline to the diplomatic front was significant. Here, amidst the grandeur of embassies, I stood guard, representing not just the safety but the spirit of my nation. These postings, while less fraught with danger, brought their own brand of stress – the weight of constant alertness, the responsibility of protecting not just people, but ideals.


The pinnacle of my career was serving in The United States Marine Corps Helicopter Squadron One (HMX-1) in Quantico, VA. Being part of this elite unit, providing transport to the President and other VIPs, was an honor that's hard to articulate. Serving under President Obama, I felt a sense of pride that is rare and exhilarating. Yet, with this honor came immense pressure, the kind that follows you even after you hang up your uniform.


But, let's talk about what came after. This year, I faced a reality that I had long felt within me – I was diagnosed with PTSD. The acknowledgment of this was both a relief and a challenge. It's like acknowledging a shadow that has followed you silently for years. PTSD is not just a diagnosis; it’s a reflection of the battles that continue inside long after the war is over. This revelation led me down a path of healing, where I found solace in yoga. Yoga became more than just a practice; it became my sanctuary. On the mat, I learned to breathe through memories that once left me gasping for air. I found strength not in the power of holding a pose, but in the vulnerability of releasing the tension that I had carried for so long.


Seeking solace, in 2017 -2021, I turned to the ancient practice of yoga. It began as a physical exercise but soon transformed into a powerful tool for mental and emotional well-being. As I traversed the transformative paths of RYS200 Interdisciplinary Yoga and Baptiste Power Yoga, it was Warriors at Ease Yoga® that resonated with me the most. On my yoga mat, I found a space for peace and introspection. Each pose and breath became a step towards liberation from a haunting past. This introspection led me to profound questions: "Who am I beyond my military identity? What unique contributions can I make to the world?" These questions became the foundation of my new journey, guiding me towards a deeper understanding of myself and my purpose post-service.


The year 2020 was a turning point, a year that reshaped our collective human experience. For me, it was a wake-up call. I could no longer float in the familiarity of the past. These recent years have been transformative, marked by deep personal growth and healing. I realized that recovering from PTSD is not a journey with a clear start and finish line; it's an ongoing process, sometimes looping back, but always moving forward.


Each day now presents a choice. I choose to embrace progress, to practice self-love, and to nurture my well-being so that I can be a source of strength for others. Through embracing my vulnerabilities, I've discovered the power of empathy and connection.

This Veterans Day, I extend a heartfelt invitation to you. Reflect on your own life. How are you nurturing your soul? Are you loving yourself unconditionally? The journey of self-care and self-love is the most rewarding adventure you can embark on, and there's no better time to start than the present.


To you, reading this, I want to say: our journeys may be different, but the quest for healing and peace is universal. Whether you’re a veteran, someone who’s battling inner demons, or just someone looking for a way to cope with the stresses of life, know that it's okay to seek help. It's okay to acknowledge that you're not okay.


As we commemorate Veterans Day, let’s remember that the battles don’t always end when the military members come home. Let’s honor not just the courage it takes to fight on the battlefield, but also the bravery it takes to fight the silent battles within.


For those among us who are navigating the challenging terrains of PTSD or depression, I want you to know that you are not alone in this fight. There is strength in seeking help and believing in the possibility of healing. Your path to recovery can start today.

[If you or someone you know is in need, please reach out to the National Veterans Foundation Lifeline at 1-888-777-4443 or the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255.]


If you're ready to embark on a journey of change and healing, I welcome you to join me at Evolve Yoga and Wellness. You can go their website and find my schedule there.


I also offer specialized Warriors at Ease classes, tailored to support individuals dealing with PTSD and depression. These classes are designed to enhance mental and emotional health, improve physical well-being, and create a community of support. Through these practices, you can find strategies for relaxation, improved focus, and better sleep, all of which are crucial in the journey towards healing from PTSD and depression.


Checkout our website, like and follow us on social media for our services, inspiring stories, helpful resources, and updates.


Remember, by choosing to heal, you are not just making a decision for yourself—you are influencing every life you touch. Let's honor our veterans not just today, but every day, by choosing to heal, to love, and to live in truth.


With deepest respect and big love,


Krista

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