Adversity did not stop Shahnaz Askins ’15 (College of Arts & Sciences). The retired Navy Legalman served 17 years in the military that included four deployments and nine tours. As a single mom, her battle against Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has given her compassion for those with disabilities, motivating her to earn a Bachelor of Science in Psychology at Regent University. She also recently competed for a second year in the Department of Defense’s Warrior Games.
“A couple of years ago, Safe Harbor said they needed athletic women. I already did cross fit and decided to give it a try,” said Askins. “It was a really great experience. The one thing I noticed about the athletes is how humble they were. It’s in a sense, the way God wants us, to be humble, caring and emulate Christ’s character.”
The 2015 Warrior Games brought wounded warriors from the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Cost Guard, Air Force, U.S. Special Operations Command, and the British Armed Forces to Quantico, Virginia., from June 19 through 28. Each warrior competed in two specialized areas. Askins competed in track and field and cycling. After the first three cyclists crossed the finish line to earn gold, silver and bronze places, Askins partnered with a Marine and member of the British Armed Forces to cross the line together.
“There is the element of competition, but the biggest thing was the friendships that were made and, most importantly, having fun out of that,” said Askins.
She said the road to this point in her life has been paved with God’s goodness. She witnessed atrocities while serving in Fallujah, Iraq in 2004. A tour in Kuwait in 2007 reopened these wounds as she witnessed casualties coming into a hospital there.
“When I got back, it’s one of those things you compartmentalize,” said Askins. “You don’t want to think about it. You just want to keep suppressing it, but as time goes on, it gets worse and your work is affected by it. Your family is affected by it. At that time I didn’t know what PTSD was.”
Askins says others noticed she might be suffering from PTSD. While deployed in 2010, her condition worsened when she learned her sister was killed in a car crash. This affected her work performance and put her job and military benefits in jeopardy.
“They gave me a choice,” said Askins. “They said you could choose the medboard (a military process for determining if a military member is fit for continued duty), we could administratively separate you, or you could take your chances and something is going to happen. I chose option three for my family.”
Within a week, ‘option three’ led to three major changes. First, Askins received a medical finding that allowed her to retire with benefits. Second, she was accepted into Regent, and third, she was accepted into a vocational rehabilitation program that would pay for her education.
Askins explained that she drove past Regent many times and felt the university drawing her in like a magnet. She says obtaining her degree has has helped her understand herself.
“Knowledge makes you love better. That is so true. It does. Once I started having the knowledge about myself through the university’s faith integration, I was able to love more.”
Askins says she may pursue a graduate degree in clinical psychology or explore the field of physical therapy. She is engaged and stays actively involved with other veterans. She’s looking forward to a deer hunting trip for female veterans this fall, and she’s already training to qualify to represent the Navy in the 2016 Invictus games in Orlando, Florida.