I spent 21 years as an officer in the U.S. Navy. For all but the last two years, I flew fighters. In 2005, I left the cockpit for the first time in my career and mobilized with the Army. For 12 months, I worked as a civil affairs officer attached to Multinational Division-Baghdad. I returned home from Iraq in 2007 feeling defeated, disillusioned and unsure of which way to turn.
These days I’m living a pretty good life. I keep busy raising three great kids who I love more than anything. I live in a nice neighborhood with some great neighbors. And I love my job counseling fellow veterans. I help them reintegrate into civilian life by working with horses in Wylie, just northeast of Dallas, at a nonprofit called Equest.
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Jeff Hensley is a counselor for the Hooves for Heroes program in Wylie, TX. The program is sponsored by Equest Therapeutic Horsemanship Equest Therapeutic Horsemanship. The Sept. 11 attacks and Iraq war prompted him to leave careers as a United Airlines pilot and Navy reservist to join the Army. He spent 12 months ending in 2007 as a civil affairs officer in Iraq.
The difficulty that some veterans have in the transition to civilian life was the focus of an American-Statesman special report that found high numbers of suicide, drug overdose and vehicle deaths among Texans receiving VA benefits after tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Find the report, Uncounted Casualties, at statesman.com/uncountedcasualties.
More veterans’ voices
The perspectives of others who served in the U.S. military in Iraq will appear March 24 in Insight & Books.