She returned from Iraq to a broken family. Then writing changed her life.
True
Megan Leavey

Kate Hoit always dreamed of joining the FBI. Then she was deployed to Iraq in 2004, and her life took a different turn.

"I was a 17-year-old girl from the suburbs, I was a cheerleader, shitty at math, and I was just really interested in being an FBI agent," she says. After three years in the Army Reserves, she received that unexpected phone call that she would actually be shipping off to war.

Her official assignment? Working for the resident newspaper on the base, covering a wide variety of topics, from the construction of water treatment facilities in local villages to reporting from the hospital as injured soldiers were airlifted in. She spoke with Iraqi civilians and Australian soldiers alike and witnessed everything from horrible injuries to opportunistic generals posing for press photos.


Hoit on deployment in Iraq. All photos by Kate Hoit, used with permission.

"During that time, I really fell in love with the power of storytelling and journalism and photography," Hoit says.

"It was really just a way to see the war at different levels in a way I never would have if I had just sat behind a computer all day," she continues. "So that impacted me on the ground, and I realized I could tell stories and focus on the more humanized aspects of that."

Hoit saw a lot of things during her year in Iraq, but what she didn't see was the effect her deployment had on her family back home.

Her father was a veteran, too. But his experience in West Germany in the early 1950s was nothing compared to the dangers of the Iraq War, and he worried immensely about the safety of his daughter. This lead to a relapse into alcoholism, and later he was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's.

Soon her mother struggled with alcoholism, too. The family ended up losing Hoit's childhood home when her father was checked into a nursing home.

Hoit with her parents before her deployment.

Hoit returned to a very different life than the one she had left.

"I didn’t have anyone to turn to," she says. "My friends got it as best they could, [but] at the time, I was a little bit frustrated going through this whole experience: My family’s destroyed, kind of, and I can’t connect with anyone."

Hoit re-enrolled in college with a newly inspired interest in pursuing a journalism career, but the transition wasn't easy.

She was angry and isolated, and it only got worse — until one of her professors encouraged her to write about her experiences. As numerous psychological studies have shown, the act of storytelling can have a profound effect on traumatic healing.

Hoit discovered a new passion for the ways that storytelling can connect with the veteran experience. "I was like, oh, I have a community again," she says. "It helped with my transition because I didn’t feel as alienated when I started writing."

Then a few of her criticisms drew the attention of the Veterans Affairs department.

They caught the eye of now-Sen. Tammy Duckworth, who had just taken over as the VA's assistant secretary for public and intergovernmental affairs, and Hoit was soon recruited into the department's newly formed digital engagement team.

During her time with the team, Hoit launched the department's social media presence and also worked on several crucial public relations campaigns, including Veteran of the Day and Strong at the Broken Places, which aimed to break down stigmas around veterans and mental health.

Since then, Hoit has made a career of helping veterans tell their stories — and making sure the public hears them.

Hoit left her role at the VA and worked in a congressional communications role while she pursued a master's degree in non-fiction writing.

Since then, she's found a new home as director of content at Got Your 6, a nonprofit that works with the entertainment industry, veteran groups, and government organizations to normalize depictions of veterans in the media and empower veterans to build communities and tell their own stories.

And all the while, her mission has remained the same: "You can draw on an emotion or a struggle, and even if people are on the opposite side of the spectrum, you can make that connection with people. That’s my goal with content."

Among their many programs, Got Your 6 offers official certification for films and TV shows ranging from Marvel's "Daredevil" to "Megan Leavey" in recognition of their efforts to depict the veteran experience with greater accuracy and humanity.

"It can be a challenge when people only want to see veterans as broken with PTSD or as superheroes," Hoit explains. "They don’t want see the normalized, nuanced story."

Hoit and her colleagues from Got Your 6.

It's been more than a decade since Hoit returned from Iraq, and strangers still email to ask about her experience.

"I feel like, at the end of the day, if you’re helping people and making a difference, then you should use your voice for some greater good," she says. From what she's seen, most veterans are eager and willing to talk about their service and all the complications that come along with it. They just need someone to listen.

True
Frito-Lay

Did you know one in five families are unable to provide everyday essentials and food for their children? This summer was also the hungriest on record with one in four children not knowing where their next meal will come from – an increase from one in seven children prior to the pandemic. The effects of COVID-19 continue to be felt around the country and many people struggle to secure basic needs. Unemployment is at an all-time high and an alarming number of families face food insecurity, not only from the increased financial burdens but also because many students and families rely on schools for school meal programs and other daily essentials.

This school year is unlike any other. Frito-Lay knew the critical need to ensure children have enough food and resources to succeed. The company quickly pivoted to expand its partnership with Feed the Children, a leading nonprofit focused on alleviating childhood hunger, to create the "Building the Future Together" program to provide shelf-stable food to supplement more than a quarter-million meals and distribute 500,000 pantry staples, school supplies, snacks, books, hand sanitizer, and personal care items to schools in underserved communities.

Keep Reading Show less

Sir David Attenborough has one of the most recognized and beloved voices in the world. The British broadcaster and nature historian has spent most of his 94 years on Earth educating humanity about the wonders of the natural world, inspiring multiple generations to care about the planet we all call home.

And now, Attenborough has made a new name for himself. Not only has he joined the cool kids on Instagram, he's broken the record for reaching a million followers in the shortest period. It only took four hours and 44 minutes, which is less time than it took Jennifer Aniston, who held the title before him at 5 hours and 16 minutes.

A day later, Attenborough is sitting at a whopping 3.4 million followers. And he only has two Instagram posts so far, both of them videos. But just watch his first one and you'll see why he's attracted so many fans.

Keep Reading Show less
True

$200 billion of COVID-19 recovery funding is being used to bail out fossil fuel companies. These mayors are combatting this and instead investing in green jobs and a just recovery.

Learn more on how cities are taking action: c40.org/divest-invest


There are very few people who have had quite as memorable a life as Arnold Schwarzenegger. His adult life has played out in four acts, with each one arguably more consequential than the last.

And now Schwarzenegger wants to play a role in helping America, his adopted home, ensure that our 2020 election is safe, secure and available to everyone willing and able to vote.

Shortly after immigrating to America, Schwarzenegger rose up to become the most famous bodybuilder in history, turning what was largely a sideshow attraction into a legitimate sport. He then pivoted to an acting career, becoming Hollywood's highest paid star in a run that spanned three decades.


Keep Reading Show less

One night in 2018, Sheila and Steve Albers took their two youngest sons out to dinner. Their 17-year-old son, John, was in a crabby mood—not an uncommon occurrence for the teen who struggled with mental health issues—so he stayed home.

A half hour later, Sheila's started getting text messages that John wasn't safe. He had posted messages with suicidal ideations on social media and his friends had called the police to check on him. The Albers immediately raced home.

When they got there, they were met with a surreal scene. Their minivan was in the neighbor's yard across the street. John had been shot in the driver's seat six times by a police officer who had arrived to check on him. The officer had fired two shots as the teen slowly backed the van out of the garage, then 11 more after the van spun around backward. But all the officers told the Albers was that John had "passed" and had been shot. They wouldn't find out until the next day who had shot and killed him.

Keep Reading Show less