SAN DIEGO, Calif. – No Soldier wants to hear Medical Evaluation Board (MEB). It happens. For Maj. Victoria (Tori) Camire, an Army Judge Advocate General (JAG) Officer, those words sounded like a sentence, but she worked through the process in the Army Recovery Care Program.
“I’ve been in the Army for fourteen and a half years. I’m about to retire, it’s good because I know it’s what I need but it’s bittersweet because it’s all I’ve known as an adult,” said Camire, who will work as a part-time public defender when she leaves the Army.
Camire says she was sent from Korea to Joint Base Lewis-McChord Soldier Recovery Unit (SRU) in January of 2022 for the MEB process due to behavioral health issues. She wants others who suffer from silent wounds to know there is help through ARCP.
“Embrace the SRU - It’s probably the best thing that ever happened to me in my Army Career. When I first got to the SRU I was ashamed, embarrassed because of my rank that I was having to go through an MEB and being sent to the SRU and being taken out of my job. I was going through a huge identity crisis too. All I’ve ever known is being an Army JAG officer.”
The good counselor admits, there is a huge difference two years makes on the path she’s taken at the JBLM SRU.
“Two years ago, I was very angry and withdrawn, isolated and I was experiencing suicidal ideation often plus severe issues within my family. I still have issues but now I have a positive outlet to help. I feel like now I have a family I can reach out to when I am experiencing something or talking to other athletes who are experiencing PTSD, anxiety, and depression. Or they have physical injuries like an amputee, it’s nice to have someone to reach out to that I can relate to, or I can see how others are living with their illnesses,” stressed Tori.
While at the SRU she learned how to recover and overcome through many different programs, one of them being adaptive sports. She competed and made Team Army.
“Even when I look back to when I first got to the SRU - they were advertising for Warrior Games and talking about it and I thought, there is no way I can do that I am overweight and out of shape and I wasn’t in the mental head space to do that. But look at me now! Now I’m on Team Army and about to compete Team US at Invictus.”
The multi-medalist from last year’s Warrior Games on Team Army was selected last December to represent the US in Dusseldorf, Germany this September at Invictus. Camire tried out and made Team Army again this past Spring, just competed at Warrior Games Challenge in San Diego and took Gold in Women’s cycling.
“It’s another assessment to see where I’m at and it will help me get better prepared over the next three months for Invictus.”
Adaptive sports have become a way of life for Camire, and she wants others struggling like her to know it’s a whole new lease on life.
“I’m really excited - I love the adaptive sports community now – it has really helped in my journey especially with the behavioral health issues that I face. It has helped reduce my isolation and my withdrawal as well as my depression, anxiety, and anger. It’s exciting to be back in the community.”
Knowing that Warrior Games or Invictus would never have happened in her world had she not gone to the SRU, Tori says it’s more than a physical accomplishment.
“Being in adaptive sports especially at an event like this helps me tremendously because I get to push aside all the worries and all the negativity in my life and just focus on that event.”
She says her kids help her focus by going to the gym with her. Suffice it to say they are her biggest cheerleaders. “One of the cutest moments was when my daughter took one of my medals to school. They had a family heirloom day, and I was talking to her about all these different things in our family in the past as possibilities to take and she said no Mom I want to take your gold medal! So, she did, and it melted my heart.”