- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 11, 2014

It’s not everyday that a female Marine suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder wins a beauty pageant, but Sgt. Liz Medina beat the odds. She was crowned National Miss Virginia in August and is using her title to spread awareness about PTSD.

As of 2012, females made up less than 10 percent of the United States Marines, according to the Women Marines Association. And about 10 out of every 100 women develop PTSD after suffering a traumatic event. For Sgt. Medina, hers was a vehicle collision while serving in Kabul, Afghanistan. The accident sent her to the Intensive Care Unit in a  German hospital and eventually back home to the United States.

It was after her accident that she began to notice a difference.

“Prior to Afghanistan, I was very bubbly and happy and always wanted to go out and just have fun,” she told The Washington Times, “and then after Afghanistan, I became very reserved — I didn’t smile as much.”

Her symptoms included nightmares, loss of empathy and separation anxiety.

“It was very hard for me to feel sorry for any kind of situation because it was like, you know what, trust me — I’ve seen the worse first hand,” she explained. Her marriage ended as a result of her PTSD, but it was when her relationship with her daughter was impacted by the disorder that Sgt. Medina sought help.

Sgt. Medina uses fitness as a way to cope with her PTSD by running half marathons and teaching zumba. She encourages veterans to seek help with various organizations like Catch a Lift, which gives gym memberships and equipment to wounded veterans.

“Fitness is something the VA cannot give them,” Lynn Coffland, founder of the nonprofit Catch a Lift, told The Washington Times. Ms. Coffland founded the organization in honor of her brother Cpl. Christopher Coffland who died in 2009. “Fitness was a huge part of his philosophy.”

Ms. Coffland says veterans who use Catch a Lift lose weight, reduce medication and are able to reintegrate into society.

“One of the most largest and commonly stated benefits is that they say they feel like themselves again,” she added.

“I’m going to be living with this the rest of my life, you can’t erase those memories, you can’t erase what I did,” Sgt. Medina said. She will be joining Catch a Lift’s third annual fundraiser in Baltimore, Maryland, this Sunday where she will share her story and how she copes with her PTSD through physical fitness.

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