How One Veteran Found Purpose After Military Service and a Brain Injury

“I knew there needed to be another way of connecting people, and of forming these communities.”

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For U.S. Veteran Elana Duffy, a medical retirement caused by a traumatic brain injury seemed like a nightmare. A dedicated soldier, she loved her job and the impact it made. When Duffy got the news that she no longer could do the thing that made her happy, her world crumbled and she went into denial. She admits feeling "lost" after military service.

“I was fighting this retirement, [and] I was fighting getting out of the service,” Duffy says. (Learn more about the injury that caused Duffy’s medical retirement here.)

Transitioning to Civilian Life

Duffy had tested into an elite unit with seven to nine other people. It was the honor of a lifetime. Going from that to civilian life was especially difficult, and Duffy felt that her career and life were over. As a result, Duffy felt a deep sense of loss that permeated her to the core.

Duffy’s sense of loss transitioned into apathy. It wasn’t just an apathy towards the people and things around her but also towards herself. When this apathy toward herself started, she recognized she needed to make a change.

Finding Purpose After Military Service

Even while experiencing this apathy, Duffy had long been growing her community and making contacts. “I was still getting out there. I still needed to do something,” Duffy says.

This led to Duffy seeing there were others in the same predicament. Not only did she need help, but she also knew there were other veterans who did, too. She wanted to create some type of space where people could access the help they needed without having to wait another day.

“Sometimes [people say] ‘I’ll try something tomorrow,’ [but] tomorrow might be too late,” Duffy adds.

Duffy got together with a group of engineers, veterans and civilians and created Pathfinder. This site helps veterans locate other individuals who are going through the same things. It also provides resources for local services. The site claims you can find resources, help and recommendations in “just three minutes.”

Having this kind of assistance is vital in creating trust within the veteran community. Many individuals are scared to open up because of bad experiences or because they weren’t taken seriously. Duffy hopes that sites like Pathfinder can help veterans find organizers and experts they can trust—and that understand the veteran experience.

“It’s so important to show that you believe people and to show that you trust people,” says Duffy.