Annette Whittenberger is an Army veteran, military spouse, mother of two teenagers. She served in the Army for over seventeen years while married to an active-duty Army officer and raising two children for most of her career. During her time in the military, she deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan, lived co-located from her husband for numerous assignments, and cared deeply about the men and women she served with. When she was passed over for lieutenant colonel and forced to retire early from the military it was a hard transition, hard to leave the military so close to twenty years after giving so much, and hard to leave behind the military service to be a stay at home mom and military spouse.
While she was in the Army she kept pushing forward and doing the mission, but when she left, she stopped moving and had time to deal with her emotions of being part of the Army for the past 20 plus years. Incidents that she had tried to forget when she was a cadet in the Reserve Officer Training program started to come back to her. She had been sexually assaulted during ROTC and received no support from leadership so she stuffed it down and kept moving forward. She also had lingering post-traumatic stress disorder from her deployment. She still struggles with anxiety, depression, and PTSD.
But luckily her story doesn’t end there. In her journey to find help and healing she started to share her experience through her blog, A Wild Ride Called Life, freelance articles and speaking. And through this experience, she has found a passion to help others like her. She uses her voice to break down the stereotypes and the stigma surrounding mental health to help others who are struggling with PTSD, anxiety, and depression.
One of the main ways she works to help people is by helping them find their voice. She believes when they find their voice, they can share their story and help themselves and others. A continual cycle of healing that is not only changing her life but the lives of others. And her experience of being a military spouse, veteran and mother help her to relate not only to her male counterparts but the fastest group of growing veterans, women, looking for support.
One of the ways she does this is through mentorship with the program Veterati. Veterati is a place where service members, veterans and military spouses can reach out for free virtual mentoring with thousands of volunteer mentors: CEOs, recruiters, entrepreneurs, managers, veterans and civilians alike. On top of that she just began the Entrepreneurship Program with The Rosie Network to help her take her business ideas and dreams to the next level.
Annette wants to help end the stigma against mental health and that is why she is so passionate about sharing her experience. She knows that by speaking out about her struggles that she is able to bring healing to others. When I asked her what drives her to keep pushing forward she said, “I want to help stop suicide and help people not feel so alone.”