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They went to war but felt uneasy when they got home. So they stuck their hands in some dirt.

Sonia, Althea, and Anna went to war but felt totally different when they returned. Filmmakers Christine Anthony and Owen Masterson tell their story in an awesome film called "Terra Firma."

They went to war but felt uneasy when they got home. So they stuck their hands in some dirt.

The film tells the story of three of the over 280,000 women who were deployed to the Middle East since 2001.

Sonia Kendrick was serving in the Army for several years before she was deployed to Afghanistan. So was Anna Mann, who served in Kuwait and Baghdad. Althea Raiford, a 20-year Navy veteran, also served in Kuwait.

When they returned home, all three were diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).


Sonia in the Army

"If you went through that experience and you got to feel the fear everyday — the uncertainty, those things alter your life."

The three women describe PTSD in different ways.

When Sonia came home, she says, "my bubble was popped" and that she just didn't feel safe anymore.

"I don't even know when it happened or how it happened," Althea explains. "I just know that one day I woke up and can't go into a store by myself."

For Anna it's more like "a little bit of stress over something really stupid and little, [it] becomes this huge stress. ... I really didn't think that I was good at anything."

Despite not having met each other while in combat, all three women found the same way to cope with their PTSD.

What's their secret? Farming.

Althea spends her time at Gilliard Farms, a property that's been in her family for over 100 years.

"All of the things that I've seen in the world over the years that I've served in the military, those unseen scars that people don't know about, when I come here, I feel them healing." — Althea

For Sonia, farming is about having a mission.

"The food that I grow is going to food banks and food pantries. It's going to homeless shelters. ... I can't fight in wars anymore, but I can fight hunger." — Sonia

As filmmakers Owen and Christine told me via e-mail, by growing crops, Sonia continues "to serve her country by providing food for the hungry."

And in North Carolina, farming helped Anna her find her purpose.

"Being my own boss has let me give myself space where I'm not judging myself. ... It's built a lot of confidence back. I'm good at this. I own my own business. I am a mom." — Anna

Since the film was shot a few years ago...

Sonia, who "was only farming at one church" will be growing food at 23 different sites around Cedar Rapids, Iowa for food banks.

Anna is getting her master's degree at the University of California Berkeley, focusing on developing sustainable agriculture. She also became a board member of Acta Non Verba Youth Urban Farm in Oakland, California, which was founded by another amazing female veteran.

And Althea retired from the Navy and is rebuilding Gilliard Farms with her brother, enjoying their lives as sixth-generation farmers in Georgia.

Christine and Owen were super grateful that Anna, Sonia, and Althea all agreed to be filmed. They initially had trouble finding female vets that wanted to share their stories but were determined to show women's lives post-combat.

"(Female vets) are an often overlooked and underserved segment of the population. We also like to make solutions style films in relation to our broken agricultural system. America needs more farmers and veterans need jobs." — Christine Anthony and Owen Masterson

What a fearless bunch of ladies! I'm so glad they decided to share their struggles and triumphs. Check out their stories here:

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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via David Lavaux / Facebook and Google

A farmer in Belgium has caused an international incident by inadvertently redrawing the border between Belgium and France. The farmer moved a border stone that stood on the grounds for over 200 years because it was blocking his tractor.

The two countries share a 390-mile border that was established under a treaty signed in 1820.

The stone, marked 1819, was put in place four years after the defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. Nearly 50,000 soldiers died in the battle that would determine the border.

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Courtesy of CeraVe
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"I love being a nurse because I have the honor of connecting with my patients during some of their best and some of their worst days and making a difference in their lives is among the most rewarding things that I can do in my own life" - Tenesia Richards, RN

From ushering new life into the world to holding the hand of a patient as they take their last breath, nurses are everyday heroes that deserve our respect and appreciation.

To give back to this community that is always giving so selflessly to others, CeraVe® put out a call to nurses to share their stories for a chance to be featured in Heroes Behind the Masks, a digital content series shining a light on nurses who go above and beyond to provide safe and quality care to patients and their communities.

First up: Tenesia Richards, a labor and delivery nurse working in New York City who, in addition to her regular job, started a community outreach program in a homeless shelter that houses expectant mothers for up to one year postpartum.

Tenesia | Heroes Behind the Masks presented by CeraVe www.youtube.com

Upon learning at a conference that black mothers in the U.S. die at three to four times the rate of white mothers, one of the widest of all racial disparities in women's health, Richards decided to take further action to help her community. She, along with a handful of fellow nurses, volunteered to provide antepartum, childbirth and postpartum education to the women living at the shelter. Additionally, they looked for other ways to boost the spirits of the residents, like throwing baby showers and bringing in guest speakers. When COVID-19 hit and in-person gatherings were no longer possible, Richards and her team found creative workarounds and created holiday care packages for the mothers instead.

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