FORT BRAGG, N.C --At the height of her career Lt. Col. Amy Gray was ready for anything. Her deployment to Kuwait was no different, until the unexpected happened and she was medically transported to the United States.
The next couple months would be spent at the Fort Bragg Soldier Recovery Unit (SRU) soon to be Fort Liberty. Their mission is to provide world class leadership and medical case management to eligible wounded, ill and injured Soldiers in order to return Soldiers to duty or transition them honorably to veteran status.
“When I first got here, I was a fraction of my former self, both mentally and physically,” said Gray. “Sometimes there are things that you just don't expect to happen and all of a sudden you find yourself in a different place but that doesn't have to be the end, so I planted a seed.”
From that seed, Gray grew new coping skills, stress management techniques and the discovery of a holistic healing approach.
“As an occupational therapist, I understand the benefits of a holistic healing approach,” said Gray “This SRU met me, mind, body, and spirit.”
Gray was hesitant about coming to the Fort Bragg SRU, having served previously as the chief of occupational therapy at the Fort Stewart SRU. Fort Stewart SRU was closer to home, but her reservations would soon change.
“From the day they picked me up on the flight line until today, I have been treated with the most dignity, respect and empathy,” said Gray. “I needed it to bring me back up.”
According to Fort Bragg SRU Senior Transition Coordinator, Cedric Minor with the Career Education and Readiness Program (CER), assignment at an SRU is not solely dependent upon the service members proximity. It is initially dependent on the care that the service member needs and the availability or capability to provide that care for the injuries and illnesses of each individual Soldier in Recovery who might get assigned to a particular SRU.
“It starts with what’s your condition, your location, the urgency of care and more, said Minor. “Is this really time sensitive?”
Minor also shared that the CER program is a requirement within the SRU, provided to all assigned Soldiers and their families. CER serves to empower service members to not lose their military occupational specialties (MOS) skills while assigned to the SRU.
“For those that are on track to remain in the army, the CER program sets them up for work assignments, so that they don’t lose their MOS skills as long as they are medically cleared and approved by our military leadership to perform those skills,” said Minor.
Unfortunately for others this might not be the reality, but they are not forgotten.
“For those identified as not being fit to remain in the military, our program adjusts to those service members, their spouses and caregivers to empower them to transition into veterans’ status successfully and smoothly based on the goals they have set for themselves,” said Minor.
“When I got here, I realized I had stepped into the model. And so, it never even crossed my mind to ask if I could move closer to home, because I knew that I would find my way out,” said Gray.
Finding her way out is exactly what she did as she navigated her way through the different resources available to help Soldiers assigned to the SRU.
“Whether it's resume building, employment assistance or career advice, we like to think of ourselves as nurse case managers of career employment, education and overall transition,” said Minor.
They have the resources needed to serve the service members but if they don’t have them at the SRU they locate them for them.
Gray was grateful to be at the Fort Bragg SRU, where she received the counsel, therapy and care she needed for the injuries she sustained, and most of all she was able to focus on herself.
As she transitions from the program and the military, she will carry the camaraderie she found with her fellow Soldiers, some of whom had been through similar experiences. Gray would have also left with the tools she needs to accomplish her goals.
“I don't want to say we're 100 percent when we leave here, but we've got all the tools we need to continue to be that productive member of society, to re-engage, with our family, friends and to take the uniform off for a change,’ said Gray.
Today, Gray is doing much better. She has been able to overcome her injuries and stands as a proud veteran having retired from the military after serving 25years. Gray credits the Fort Bragg Soldier Recovery Unit with helping her get to where she is today.
“I am moving forward with my landscape design business, working one day a week in the hospital I was at prior to deployment,” said Gray. And I find joy in living life to its fullest.”
Gray is a true hero who has overcome incredible challenges during her service to this country. Her story is a testament to the strength and resilience of our armed forces, and the importance of programs like those offered at any one of the 14 SRU’s located on military installations across the country. We owe a debt of gratitude to soldiers like Gray, who have made great sacrifices to protect our freedoms.
For more information on Soldier Recovery Units, click on the following link https://www.arcp.army.mil/About-Us/