Local veterans share their story

For many soldiers, returning from active duty can be a challenging time. Many do not want to share their stories, and there are some who struggle to adapt.

The Cambridge American Legion knows that sharing can be hard for many veterans, but it is also necessary.

On Aug. 3, the Cambridge American Legion hosted a group of veterans to share their experiences with one another to give them a platform to share things with people who understand what they went through.

Army veteran Steve Blackwell and his wife, active National Guard 1st Sgt. Katie Blackwell, gave local veterans a look at their unique experience.

Not only did the Blackwells serve together in active duty, but currently they assist struggling veterans at home.

Steve and Katie currently work with Homes for Heroes. Based in Minnesota, Homes for Heroes is a national group that assists veterans afford comfortable homes.

Aside from their efforts with Homes for Heroes, the couple also travel Minnesota and Wisconsin, teaching police departments how to deal with individuals suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

For Steve, this issue is quite personal.

Growing up the youngest of 12, Steve’s family was “steeped in military tradition.”

Steve shared the story of one of his older brothers who suffered from PTSD while Steve was a young child. He watched his older brother struggle to leave their mom’s basement, and it was hard for him to adapt to regular life.

The Blackwells understand first-hand the horrors that can be witnessed while serving in the military.

Steve was active in the Army from 1982-1986 serving in Egypt and Honduras and again from 2002-2014 serving in places such as Bosnia and Iraq.

Katie served alongside her husband in both Bosnia and Iraq after growing up in a family filled with military veterans.

The second youngest of 10 kids, Katie credited her older siblings for toughening her up as a child.

“I had six older brothers who taught me how to fight and older sisters who taught me how to end a fight,” she added.

Out of her three brothers who served in the Army, Katie’s goal was to out-rank them “at all costs.” She did just that, when she was promoted to the rank of first sergeant.

Katie and Steve may have been together overseas, but at times it made them fear for each other’s safety.

“I would have rather had her back at home, where I know what she is doing instead of running all of the same missions as I am,” Steve added.

Even when Katie was leading a convoy that was struck by a roadside bomb, she was still only thinking of her husband. Knowing that he was putting his life in the same risk as her was difficult.

Currently, Katie works as with the Minneapolis Police Department as a member of its assault unit.

The Blackwells’ story of active service did not end when they left the war. They are shining examples of the many ways veterans can help their fellow soldiers returning from active duty.

While it may be hard for veterans to share their experience, there are people such as the Blackwells and organization such as Homes for Heroes who are there to help.

To learn more about Homes for Heroes, visit homesforheroes.com.