Arlene Turner Magee’s earliest memory was watching her father “painstakingly prepare” his Naval uniform every day. Her childhood as a proud Navy Brat left a strong impression, and by fifth grade, she knew she wanted to join the Navy when she grew up.
As a young adult, her dream came true. She graduated from the Naval ROTC Unit at Southern University and went on to serve at a number of bases.
Arlene became the first black woman to board the U.S.S. Cunningham and also joined several Carrier Detachments. “There’s nothing like seeing those jets take off and land on a Carrier,” she said. “This is when bonding with shipmates and discovering your inner strengths are at their peak.”
While serving at the Naval Base Evacuation Site, as part of the New Orleans Disaster Preparedness Team, tragedy struck when an 18-wheeler smashed into the right side of Arlene’s car. The accident left her paralyzed, unable to use her legs.
“I left my body and by God’s grace was allowed to come back, being told, ‘You have not accomplished your purpose’,” Arlene said of the near-death experience.
Today, like many veterans, Arlene lives with the mental anguish of PTSD. And, more than 20 years later, she still confronts the persistent aches in her arms, neck and shoulders.
But gratitude is a powerful feeling, and Arlene feels much of that. She is grateful for the support she has received along the way from her family, her church and her friends at DAV.
“One of the most significant things the DAV did was rally around me and other veterans to encourage us to participate in the National Wheelchair Games,” she said. “I have been working though the hardest part of being in counseling for PTSD, and one of the challenges with fighting stress and other issues is resisting the urge to isolate yourself.”
These games have pushed Arlene to get back out in the world, exercising and having fun with her fellow veterans. She hopes other veterans will also reach out for help when they are in need.
“DAV has been able to bring veterans together even in sensitive areas of one’s life,” Arlene said. “We feel safe sharing our struggles and victories.”