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From the Navy to Cara Collective

This Veterans Day, we sat down with Ashley Harden, Cara Collective Counseling Intern, who shares her experience serving in the Navy and her mission to provide counseling to anyone in our community.

I served in the Navy as soon as I got out of high school in 2010. My dad was in the military, so I always knew it was an option and, after high school, I asked myself: ‘What do I want to do next?’ I decided to join the Navy because I knew I could swim, which looking back probably wasn’t the wisest way to determine whether to do something.

“Getting started was hard. I was scared. In boot camp, you are always getting yelled at for no reason. But by the end, you’re so used to everything. I don’t know if training got easier, but I do know I got better at maneuvering. That seemed to be a pattern throughout my time in the Navy.

“I was stationed officially in Norfolk, Virginia, and assigned to a ship. I worked on a flight deck where helicopters would come in and I’d run underneath, tie them down, or move them around to fit more aircrafts. 

“I went on two deployments, and deployments look a little different in the Navy than the Marines or the Army. You have to make sure everything is good back home, because you’re going to be living on a ship out at sea, and you don’t really know exactly how long you’re going to be there. Sometimes you don’t touch dry land for months at a time, but then there’s times where you get to travel. During my deployments, we went to Portugal, Dubai, and Jordan.

“After serving for four years, I moved to Phoenix, where my parents lived. I went to Grand Canyon University to study psychology and graduated in 2018. Then I started a master’s program at DePaul University and moved to Chicago, where I learned about Cara Collective.

I wanted to get experience as Cara’s Counseling Intern because I felt blessed to be put in a position where, even though I experienced things that people might consider trauma, I have a very strong family system and parents that 100% believe in therapy. But I know not a lot of people have that support, especially if you’re coming from a situation that’s not ideal.

“Cara participants are working on getting a job and that’s so awesome. But if you aren’t where you need to be mentally-even if you have the best resume, great social skills, a monster elevator pitch, and then land a job-you won’t know how to deal with life in a healthy way. I believe everyone, no matter who you are, could benefit from counseling; we just have to get rid of the stigma around it. 

“It’s been great to be there for Cara participants, engaging with people who want counseling and helping the coaching team with assessments. The best part is getting to know a person’s story and seeing them open up.

“It’s all about being there for the person and never judging them. People share sensitive information during our sessions and, for me, it’s all about making sure they don’t feel weird or bad when they talk about the things they are dealing with in life.”

Thank you to all the veterans in our community for your service, on this Veterans Day and every day.

For more stories of our Cara Collective community, visit our blog and get to know participants, staff, employment partners, and more.