Friday, March 7, 2014

INTERVIEW with AUTHOR JENNIFER CLARK who served in Afghanistan

  1. What is your book about?
The book is a memoir of my experience during a deployment to Afghanistan in 2008. I was attached to a team of Green Berets and we were forward deployed to one of, if not the most violent firebases in Afghanistan at that time. I was the lead of a Female Treatment Team, which consisted on me as a Physician Assistant and a female medic. We were tasked with taking care of the local nationals at the clinic and taking care of the team and others that augmented them. The experience was filled with some of the best moments of my military career and the worst of my life. I was exposed to the incredibly brutal realities of war which left me broken. I kept a journal while I was there which consisted of my real time thoughts and feelings as I experienced some of the most unimaginable experiences. The book was written from my journal and personal account of the deployment. When I returned to the US, I developed PTSD and hit my personal rock bottom. By the grace of God I came to a realization that I had a choice: I could let my PTSD consume me and become who I was from that moment forward, or I could get through it. Thankfully I chose the later. I outline my very intimate struggles through my PTSD, and how I was able to come through it. The story becomes one of hope for anyone who has ever struggled through PTSD or any traumatic experience in their life.
2. Are the characters in the book based on anyone you know?
Yes, again it was written from my journal and so I do talk about the guys I was with. I changed all of the special forces guys names to protect their identities since most of them are still serving. I wanted to show the reader the tremendous sacrifice and selflessness that these men and all our service members struggle with time and time again. It was such an honor to be a small part of these amazing individual’s service, one of the highest honors I have ever had.
3. How has your book impacted others?
In an overwhelmingly positive way. I speak a lot on the experience as well, and I have found that my story is helpful to others by allowing them to accept the realities of recovery from a traumatic experience and that they can get through it. I think it is so important to be a voice for others who have gone through such similar instances. The book has also prompted the beginning of Back to Center Wellness Associates, an organization I have created to help inspire others to live their lives to the fullest and practice total mind, body, and spiritual health. It is an exciting next chapter of my life and it is so humbling to see it grow.
4. Why did you choose to write the book and share such a personal story?
To be honest, I have felt incredibly called to put it out there. Being a healthcare provider, I see so many others struggling with some of the same issues that I did after that deployment. Rarely do people see a positive outcome from someone suffering with PTSD. I feel I have come through it even better than before, and it is now my calling to spread the hope to others. I feel our society is so incredibly hungry for hope, it’s so important to share. I believe our life experiences give us purpose, and I’m so grateful to feel I have found the purpose from such a horrible experience in mine.
5. What are you working on now?
The book has also prompted the beginning of Back to Center Wellness Associates, an organization I have created to help inspire others to live their lives to the fullest and practice total mind, body, and spiritual health. It is an exciting next chapter of my life and it is so humbling to see it grow. I would love to write another book, I am in the brainstorming phase of how that book will materialize. The message will continue along the same lines of hope and inspiration for others.
6. Share with us your biggest hurdles in the writing process?
Easily for this particular story it was getting past the emotion. It was such a painful part of my life, it took me two years after I came home to even bring myself to open the journal. When I finally did I began to feel how much bigger than me the story really was. Once I got past reliving the deployment, it was even harder to tell the details of my struggles with PTSD. Admitting my vulnerability was really hard, but so necessary. I wanted to be 100% honest about any and all of the things that happened.
7. Is there anything else you would like to say to the readers?
I have realized through this whole process how powerful our stories are. We all have them, but often we don’t share them. It has been amazing to see the impact of sharing mine has had. I am so humbled and so blessed with this enlightenment. I truly feel our connections with each other are an important part with how we develop and grow. I would say to anyone reading this, if they have a story to tell, TELL it!

Find and Buy Jennifer's book at:
Jennifer Clark, former Captain and Physician Assistant, served for over 10 years in the USAF. She enlisted as a medic and quickly progressed up the enlisted ranks to E-5 while stationed at Nellis AFB, NV where she completed her Associates in Allied Health Sciences through the Community College of the Air Force. She was selected for the Interservice Physician Assistant program after five short years of enlisted service and graduated the program with a Bachelor's and Master's Degree from the University of Nebraska Medical Center. She was commissioned as a 1st Lt and her was stationed at Tyndall AFB for her first duty assignment as an officer.
One year after arriving in Panama City, she forward deployed to Afghanistan with a team of US Army Green Berets for six months. After the deployment she returned to Tyndall AFB and completed the rest of her commitment to the USAF. In 2011 Jennifer separated from the service and joined Vascular Associates, a local vascular surgery practice where she continues to treat patients with vascular conditions.
Since separating from the military Jennifer has written a book outlining her deployment to Afghanistan and struggles with PTSD titled 166 Days: My Journey Through the Darkness that is due to be published in early 2014. She has also gained her certification as a Life and Wellness Coach and in 2013 founded an organization entitled Back to Center Wellness Associates which is focused on serving, inspiring, and guiding others towards meaning and fulfillment in their lives. She is a frequent speaker on Tyndall AFB and within the community.
Jennifer is happily married to Greg Clark, and a mother of three beautiful children: her stepson Griffen, daughter Ayla, and her son Dylan.

166 Days ~Afghanistan. Outside the wire. Combat. Green Berets. Insurgents. All words Jennifer Clark, Air Force Physician Assistant, never imagined would pertain to her, yet would soon become her reality. In 2008 she was faced with a deployment into the trenches of the most violent regions of Afghanistan as an augmentee to a US Army team of Green Berets. Her duty was to lead a Female Treatment Team, which was comprised of a female provider and a female medic, tasked to provide medical care to the underserved women and children in Afghanistan. She would run the clinic located on a firebase that was once a Taliban stronghold taken over by Coalition Forces in 2002. She was a young officer; newly commissioned after serving five years as an enlisted medic, with just less than one year of experience as a Physician Assistant. The child lying in blood-soaked clothes as his father screamed frantically in Pashtu beside him, the man who traveled for five days by camel after his arm was blown up in an explosion, the beautiful little girl covered in blood with shrapnel wounds to her entire abdomen, face and arms. These were a few of the hundreds of patients with unimaginable ailments Jennifer Clark treated during her deployment to Afghanistan, a country where, she discovered, "children never had a childhood, women lived in constant fear and men knew nothing but a life of fighting". 166 Days: My Journey through the Darkness is a page turning account of innocent people losing their lives simply because they frequented the wrong place at the wrong time and of lives sacrificed to the cause by brave and committed young men. 166 Days illustrates the challenges Jennifer faced daily; from being a female in a Special Forces world of men, to treating patients with indescribable conditions and the frequent attacks of the firebase by the Taliban. 166 Days is a gripping account of war, but it is more than that. It outlines an intimate struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and adjusting.

No comments:

Post a Comment