FALLS CHURCH, Va.- Staff Sgt. Santanae Mack had multiple deployments to Djibouti, Africa, and she knew she had a big job to do every time. “I managed the construction yard on my deployment. Between moving lumber and using power towels, lots of heavy stuff, I did a lot of damage to my body,” said the Maintenance Supply Specialist.
Like most Soldiers, Mack would injure herself but wanted to see the mission through. “I was doing physical therapy while I was deployed, trying to heal and work through the pain. Unfortunately, my pain kept coming back.”
By the time her third deployment was done, so was Mack. “I had shoulder and back injuries, tore my left meniscus in my knee. I even passed out on the plane on the way home and hit my head, giving me a TBI.”
When she got back state-side, Mack was informed she needed help immediately. “When I came back from deployment, I was told I was a mess, and they sent me to Ft Stewart Soldier Recovery Unit (SRU) in June 2022.”
It was one of the best decisions Mack says she ever made.
“I was walking into the SRU blind. I didn’t know what it was. I learned that all I have to do is go to my formation and my appointments. My job is to get better. It’s too easy, and Soldiers need to know this is for them and do what is asked of them.”
Mack was now learning what it meant to take care of herself and not let an injury wait to heal.
After shoulder surgery from a slap tear, Mack learned different ways to move. “Different types of stretches were very helpful. I have an app to keep up with new things I can do with weights and bands to help strengthen my shoulder.”
Once the healing begins for movement, Mack says the process for further healing unfolded in ways she never imagined. “Once I got into my platoon at the SRU, I learned about Adaptive reconditioning, and we went places and did things I never thought I would do. It's all part of the healing process.”
Monthly trips like fishing were on Mack’s bucket list; now, she could check them off. “Last July, I went fishing for the first time, and I loved it! I went back over my birthday in September and caught a 6-and-a-half-pound striped Bass that I got to bring back to the SRU.”
Fishing wasn’t the only adaptive reconditioning process that hooked Mack.
“Occupational Therapy is wonderful. They taught me how to meditate. I never did that before, and it truly helped with my anxiety.”
Mack stressed that everyone from the nurse case managers to the doctors was great and here to help soldiers get better. “My Nurse Case Manager, Ms. Dixon, is wonderful. She helps with appointments and anything I need. I love her to death! My care here, since I arrived, has been great.”
The new and improved Staff Sgt Mack is ready to tackle life after the Army. She tells others not to wait for an injury to be fixed.
“Don’t wait. Get yourself checked out and get things documented. If you end up with a choice of going to an SRU, please go. You will have fun and make friends at the same time.”